Posts Tagged ‘Bob Mizer Physique Pictorial

09
Nov
22

Text: “Historical Pressings” chapter from Marcus Bunyan’s PhD research ‘Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male’, RMIT University, Melbourne, 2001

November 2022

 

Hippolyte Bayard (French, 1801–1887) 'Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man' 1840

 

Hippolyte Bayard (French, 1801-1887)
Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man
1840
Direct Positive Print
Public domain

 

 

Since the demise of my old website, my PhD research Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male (RMIT University, Melbourne, 2001) has no longer been available online.

I have now republished the first of twelve chapters, “Historical Pressings”, so that it is available to read. More chapters will be added as I get time. I hope the text is of some interest…

Dr Marcus Bunyan November 2022

 

 

“Historical Pressings” chapter from Marcus Bunyan’s PhD research Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male RMIT University, Melbourne, 2001

Through plain language English (not academic speak) the text of this chapter examines the history of photographic images of the male body, including the male body as desired by gay men, and the portrayal in photography of the gay male body.

NB. This chapter should be read in conjunction with the Bench Press and Re-Pressentation chapters for a fuller overview of the development of the muscular male body. This chapter also contains descriptions of sexual activity.

 

Keywords

male body image, gay beauty myth, history of photographs of the male body, development of bodybuilding, queer body, gay male body, gay male body and HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS, photographic images of the male body, male2male sex, ephebe, muscular mesomorph, muscular male body, photography, art, erotic art, physique photography, Kinsey Institute, One Institute, gay pornography magazines, Physique Pictorial, Tom of Finland, cult of muscularity.

 

Sections

  • Beginnings
  • Frederick Holland Day and Baron von Gloeden
  • The Development of Bodybuilding
  • WWI, Nature Worship, The Body and Propaganda
  • Surrealism and the Body: George Platt Lynes
  • 1930s Australian Body Architecture
  • Minor White
  • Physique Culture after WW2 (Tom of Finland, 1950s Australia, Later Physique Culture and gay pornography photographs)
  • Diane Arbus
  • Robert Mapplethorpe
  • Arthur Tress, Bill Henson and Bruce Weber
  • Herb Ritts, Queer Press, Queer body
  • And so it goes…

Word count 10,600

 

 

Historical Pressings

 

Beginnings

Since the invention of the camera people have taken photographs of the male body. The 1840 image by Hippolyte Bayard, Self-portrait as a drowned man (above) is a self-portrait by the photographer depicting his fake suicide, taken in protest at being ignored as one of the inventors of photography. It is interesting because it is one of the earliest known photographic images of the unclothed male body and also a reflection of his self, an act of self-reflexivity. It is not his actual body but a reflection on how he would like to be seen by himself and others. This undercurrent of being seen, of projecting an image of the male body, has gradually been sexualised over the history of photography. The body in a photograph has become a canvas, able to mask or reveal the sexuality, identity and desires of the body and its owner. The male body in photography has become an object of desire for both the male and female viewer. The body is on display, open to the viewers gaze, possibly a desiring gaze. In the latter half of the twentieth century it is the muscular male body in particular that has become eroticised as an object of a desiring male2male gaze. In consumer society the muscular male body now acts as a sexualised marketable asset, used by ourselves and others, by the media and by companies to sell product. How has this sexual image of the muscular male body developed?

Within the history of art there is a profundity of depictions of the nude female form upon which the desiring gaze of the male could linger. With the advent of photography images of the nude male body became an accessible space for men desiring to look upon the bodies of other men. The nude male images featured in the early history of photography are endearing in their supposed lack of artifice. The bodies are of a natural type: everyday, normal run of the mill bodies reveal themselves directly to the camera as can be seen in the anonymous c. 1843 French daguerreotype, “Male Nude Study”.1 Although posed and required to hold the stance for a long period of time in order to expose the mercury plate, the model in this daguerreotype assumes a quiet confidence and comfort in his own body, staring directly at the camera whilst revealing his manhood for all to see. This period sees the first true revealing of the male body since the Renaissance, and the beginning of the eroticising of the male body as a visual ‘spectacle’ in the modern era.

Artists with an inclination towards the beauty of naked men were drawn towards the new medium. The photograph opened up the male body to the desiring gaze of the male viewer. The photograph reflected both reality and deception: the reality that these bodies existed in the flesh and the deception that they could be ‘had’, that the viewer could possess the body by looking, by eroticising, and through purchasing the photograph. Friendship between men was generally accepted up until the 18th century but in Victorian times homosexuality was named and classified as a sexual orientation in the early 1870’s. According to Michel Foucault2 this ‘friendship’ only became a problem with the rise of the powers of the police and the judiciary, who saw it as a deviant act; of course photography, as an instrument of ‘truth’, could prove the criminal activities of homosexuals and lead to their prosecution. When homosexual acts did come to the attention of the police and the medical profession it led to great scandals such as the trial and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde for sodomy.

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English, 1830-1904) 'Nude men wrestling, lock' (plate 345) 1884/1886

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English, 1830-1904)
Nude men wrestling, lock (plate 345)
1884/1886
Public domain

Eadweard Muybridge. Animal locomotion: an electro-photographic investigation of consecutive phases of animal movements. 1872-1885 / published under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania. Plates. The plates printed by the Photo-Gravure Company. Philadelphia, 1887

 

 

On reflection there seems to have been an explosion of images around the late 1880’s to early 1890’s onwards of what we can now call homoerotic imagery; to contemporary eyes the 1887 photographs of nude wrestlers by Eadweard Muybridge have a distinct air of homo-eroticism about them. To keep such images above moral condemnation and within the bounds of propriety men where photographed in poses that were used for scientific studies (as in the case of the Muybridge photographs), as studies for other artists, or in religious poses. They appealed to the classical Greek ideal of masculinity and therefore avoided the sanctions of a society that was, on the surface, deeply conservative. For a brief moment imagine being a homosexual man in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, gazing for the first time at men in close physical proximity, touching each other in the nude, pressing each others flesh when such behaviour was thought of as subversive and illegal – what erotic desires photographs of the male body must have caused to those that appreciated such delicious pleasures, seeing them for the first time!

 

Frederick Holland Day and Baron von Gloeden

Two of the most famous photographers of the late Victorian and early Edwardian era who used the male body significantly in their work were Frederick Holland Day in America and Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden in Europe. Frederick Holland Day’s photographs of the male body concentrated on mythological and religious subject matter. In these photographs he tried to reveal a transcendence of spirit through an aesthetic vision of androgynous physical perfection. He revelled in the sensuous hedonistic beauty of what he saw as the perfection of the youthful male body. In the 1904 photograph “St. Sebastian,” for example, the young male body is presented for our adoring gaze in the combined ecstasy and agony of suffering. In his mythological photographs Holland Day used the idealism of Ancient Greece as the basis for his directed and staged images. These are not the bodies of muscular men but of youthful boys (ephebes) in their adolescence; they seem to have an ambiguous sexuality. The models genitalia are rarely shown and when they are, the penis is usually hidden in dark shadow, imbuing the photographs with a sexual mystery. The images are suffused with an erotic beauty of the male body never seen before, a photographic reflection of a seductive utopian beauty seen through the desiring eye of a homosexual photographer.

 

Frederick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'Saint Sebastian' c. 1906

 

Frederick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
Saint Sebastian
c. 1906
Platinum print

See Frederick Holland Day. “Saint Sebastian.” Platinum print, c. 1906, in Woody, Jack and Crump, James. F. Holland Day: Suffering The Ideal. Santa Fe: Twin Palms Publishers, 1995, Plate 53. Courtesy: Library of Congress

 

 

In Europe Wilhelm von Gloeden’s photographs of young ephebes (males between boy and man) have a much more open and confronting sexual presence. Using heavily set Sicilian peasant youths with rough hands and feet von Gloeden turned some of these bodies into heroic images of Grecian legend, usually photographing his nude figures in their entirety. In undertaking research into von Gloedens’ photographs at The Kinsey Institute, I was quite surprised at how little von Gloeden used classical props such as togas and vases in his photographs, relying instead on just the form of the body with perhaps a ribbon in the hair. His photographs depict the penis and the male rump quite openly and he hints at possible erotic sexual encounters between models through their intimate gaze and physical contact.

The photographs were collected by some people for their chaste and idyllic nature but for others, such as homosexual men, there is a subtext of latent homo-eroticism present in the positioning and presentation of the youthful male body. The imagery of the penis and the male rump can be seen as totally innocent, but to homosexual men desire can be aroused by the depiction of such erogenous zones within these photographs.

In both photographers work there is a reliance on the ‘natural’ body. In von Gloeden’s case it is the smooth peasant body with rough hands and feet; in Holland Day’s it is the smooth sinuous body of the adolescent. At the same time in both Europe and America, however, there began to emerge a new form for the body of a man, that of the muscular mesomorph, the V-shaped masculine ‘ideal’ expressed through the image of the bodybuilder, photographed in all his muscular splendour!

 

Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (1856-1931), Germany 'Two nude men standing in a forest' Taormina, Sicily, 1899

 

Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (German, 1856-1931)
Two nude men standing in a forest
Taormina, Sicily, 1899
Albumen print

 

 

The Development of Bodybuilding

Frederick Mueller, better known to the world as the Prussian bodybuilder Eugen Sandow, was launched on the public at the World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. He was the world’s first true bodybuilder and he had a thick set muscular body with an outstanding back and abdominal muscles.

Bodybuilding came into existence as a result of the perceived effeminization of men brought on by the effects of the industrial revolution – boxing, gymnastics and weightlifting were undertaken to combat slothfulness, lack of exercise and unmanliness. This led to the formation of what Elliott Gorn in his book The Manly Art (Robson Books, 1986) has called ‘The Cult of Muscularity’,4 where the ‘ideal’ of the perfect masculine body can be linked to a concern for the position and power of men in an industrialised world. Sandow promoted himself not as the strongest man in the world but as the man with the most perfect physique, the first time this had ever happened in the history of the male body. He projected an ideal of physical perfection. He used photography of his muscular torso to promote himself and his products such as books, dumbbells and a brand of cocoa. He often performed and was photographed in the nude by leading photographers in Europe and America and was not at all bashful about exposing his naked body to the admiring gaze of both men and women.

His torso appeared on numerous cartes de visite, inspiring other young men to take up bodybuilding and gradually the muscular male body became an object of adulation for middle-class men and boys. The popularity of the image of his perfect body encouraged other men to purchase images of such muscular edifices and allowed them to desire to have a body like Sandow’s themselves. It also allowed homosexual men to eroticise the body of the male through their desiring gaze. But the ‘normal’ standards of heterosexual masculinity had to be defended. A desiring male gaze (men looking at the bodies of other men) could not be allowed to be homosexual; homosexuals were portrayed by the popular press and society as effete and feminine in order to deny the fact that a ‘real’ man could desire other men.5 (See the Femi-nancy Press chapter for more details on how homosexuals were portrayed as feminine). A man had to be a ‘real’ man otherwise he could be queer, an arse bandit!

 

Napoleon Sarony (French, 1821-1896) 'Eugen Sandow' 1893

 

Napoleon Sarony (French, 1821-1896)
Eugen Sandow
1893
Photographic print on cabinet card
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

 

 

Still, photographs of Greco-Roman wrestling continued to offer the opportunity for homosexual men to look upon the muscular bodies of other men in close physical proximity and intimacy. A classical wrestling style and classical props legitimised the subject matter. In static poses, which most photographs were at this time because of the length of the exposure, the genitalia were usually covered with a discreetly placed fig leaf or loin cloth, or the fig leaf / posing pouch were added later by retouching the photograph (as can be seen in the anonymous undated image of two wrestlers, “Otto Arco and Adrian Deraiz”).5 People such as Bernard MacFadden, publisher of Physical Culture, said these images were not at all erotic when viewed by other men. I think I would have found these images very horny (if a little illicit), if I had been a poof back in those days.

The physique of the muscular body had appeal across all class boundaries and bodybuilding was one of the first social activities that could be undertaken by any man no matter what his social position. Bodybuilding reinforced the power of traditional heterosexual behaviour – to be the breadwinner and provider for women, men had to see themselves as strong, tough and masculine. A fit, strong body is a productive body able to do more work through its shear physical bulk and endurance. Unlike the anonymous bodies in the photographs of Holland Day and von Gloeden here the bodies are named as individuals, men proud of their masculine bodies. It is the photographers that are anonymous, as though they are of little consequence in comparison to the flesh that is placed before their lenses.

I suggest that the impression the muscular body made on individual men was also linked to developments in other areas (art, construction and architecture for example), which were themselves influenced by industrialisation and its affect on social structure. In her book Space, Time and Perversion: Essays on the Politics of Bodies (Routledge, 1995), Elizabeth Grosz says that the city is an important element in the social production of sexually active bodies. As the cities became further industrialised and the population of cities increased in the Victorian era, space to build new buildings was at a premium. The 1890s saw the building of the first skyscrapers in America, impressive pieces of engineering that towered above the city skyline. Their object was to get more internal volume and external surface area into the same amount of space so that the building held more and was more visible to the human eye. I believe this construction has parallels in the similar development of the muscular male body, a facade with more surface area than other men’s bodies, which makes that man more visible, admired and (secretly) desired.

Further, in art the Futurists believed in the ultimate power of the machine and portrayed both the machine and the body in a blur of speed and motion. In the Age of the Machine the construction of the body became industrialised, the body becoming armoured against the outside world and the difficulty of living in it. The body became a machine, indestructible, superhuman. Within this demanding world men sought to confirm their dominance over women (especially after women achieved the ability to vote), and other men. Domination was affirmed partially through images of the muscular male (as can be seen in the image Charles Atlas and Tony Sansone in “The Slave” below), although viewed through contemporary eyes a definite homo-erotic element is also present.

Charles Atlas and Tony Sansone in “The Slave” also presents us with a man who challenged the fame of Eugen Sandow. His name was Tony Sansone and he emerged as the new hero of bodybuilding around the year 1925. Graced with a perfect physique for a taller man, Sansone was more lithe than the stocky, muscular Sandow and can be seen to represent a classical heroic Grecian body, perfect in it’s form. He had Valentino like features, perfect bone structure and was very photogenic, always a useful asset when selling a book of photographs of yourself.

 

Grace Salon of Art. 'Charles Atlas and Tony Sansone in "The Slave"' 1930s

 

Grace Salon of Art
Charles Atlas and Tony Sansone in “The Slave”
1930s

 

Edwin F. Townsend (American, 1877-1948) 'Portrait of Tony Sansone' Nd

 

Edwin F. Townsend (American, 1877-1948)
Portrait of Tony Sansone
Nd (1930s)

 

 

WWI, Nature Worship, The Body and Propaganda

The First World War caused a huge amount of devastation to the morale and confidence of the male population of Europe and America. Millions of young men were slaughtered on the killing fields of Flanders and Galipolli as the reality of trench warfare set in. Here it did not matter what kind of body a man had – every body was fodder for the machine guns that constantly ranged the lines of advancing men during an assault. A bullet or nerve gas kills a strong, muscular body just as well as a thin, natural body. The war created anxieties and conflicts in men and undermined their confidence and ability to cope in the world after peace came. During the war images of men were used to reinforce the patriotic message of fighting for your country. After the war the Surrealist and German Expressionist movements made use of photography of the body to depict the dreams, deprivations and abuse that men were suffering as a result of it. In opposition to this avant-garde art and to reinforce the message of the strong, omnipotent male – images of muscular bodies were again used to shore up traditional ‘masculine’ values. They were used to advertise sporting events such as boxing and wrestling matches and sporting heroes appeared on cigarette cards emphasising skills and achievements. These images and events ensured that masculinity was kept at the forefront of human endeavour and social cognisance.

After the devastation of The First World War, the 1920’s saw the development in Germany, America and England of the cult of ‘nature worship’ – a love of the outdoors, the sun and the naturalness of the body that would eventually lead to the formation of the nudist movement. This movement was exploited by governments and integrated into the training regimes of their armies in the search for a fitter more professional soldier. But the nudity aspect was frowned upon because of its homo-erotic overtones: Hitler banned all naturist clubs in Germany in 1933 and the obvious eroticism of training in the nude would not have been overlooked. Physical training had been introduced into the armies and navies of the Western world at the end of the 19th century and as the new century progressed physical fitness was seen as an integral part of the discipline and efficiency of such bodies. As fascist states started to emerge during the latter half of the 1920’s and the beginning of the 1930’s they started making use of the muscular male body as a symbol of physical perfection.

The idealised muscularity of the body was used by the state to encourage its aims. The use of classical images of muscular bodies reflected a nostalgia for the past and an appeal to nationalism. Heroic statues were recreated in stadiums in Italy and Germany, symbols that represented the power, strength and virility of the state and its leaders. In a totalitarian regime the body becomes the property of the state, and is used as a tool in collusion with the state’s moral and political agendas. Propaganda became a major tool of the state. During the decade leading up to the Second World War and during the war itself images of the body were used to help support the policies of the government, to encourage enlistment and bolster the morale of soldiers and public. Such images appealed to the patriotic nature of the population but could still include suspicions of homo-erotic activity, such as in the (probably Russian) poster from 1935 (below).

 

Anonymous photographer. 'The Ball Throwers' c. 1925

 

Anonymous photographer
The Ball Throwers
c. 1925
Army Training
Germany

 

“The training methods of Major Hans Suren, Chief of the German Army School of Physical Exercise in the 1920’s, involved training naked – pursuing ideals of physical perfection which were later promoted by Hitler as a sign of Aryan racial superiority.”

Anonymous photographer. “The Ball Throwers.” Army Training. Germany. c. 1925, in Dutton, Kenneth. The Perfectible Body. London: Cassell, 1995, p. 208

 

Unknown photographer. Josef Thorak "Comradeship" 1937

 

Unknown photographer
Josef Thorak “Comradeship”
1937
German Pavilion at the Paris Exposition Internationale

 

“Comradeship”, at the entrance to the German pavilion at the Paris World Exhibition 1937, by Josef Thorak, who was one of two “official sculptors” of the 3rd Reich. Nazi era statues were often strangely homoerotic.6

Here comradeship should not be confused with friendship which was discussed at the beginning of this chapter.

 

Anonymous artist. 'Propaganda poster' 1935

 

Anonymous artist
Propaganda poster
1935

 

 

Surrealism and the Body: George Platt Lynes

In contrast to the fascistic depictions of the male body used for propaganda, Surrealism (formed in the 1920s) was adapted by several influential gay photographers in the 1930s to express their own artistic interest in the male body. Although Surrealism was heavily anti-feminine and anti-homosexual, these gay male photographers, the Germans Herbert List, Horst P. Horst, and George Hoyningen-Huene and the American George Platt Lynes, made extensive use of the liberation of fantasies that Surrealism offered. Although the open depiction of homosexuality was still not possible in the 1930s there is an intuitive awareness on the part of the photographers and the viewer of the presence of sexual rituals and interactions. There is also the knowledge that there is a ready audience for these photographs, not only in the close circle of friends that surrounded the photographers, but also from gay men that instinctively recognise the homo-erotic quality of these images when shown them. The bodies in the images of the above photographers tend to be of two distinct types, the ephebe and the muscular mesomorphic body.

 

George Platt Lynes. 'A Forgotten Model' c. 1937

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
A Forgotten Model
c. 1937
Gelatin silver print

 

George Platt Lynes. 'The Sleepwalker' 1935

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
The Sleepwalker
1935
Gelatin silver print

 

George Platt Lynes (1907-1955) 'Names Withheld' 1952

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Names Withheld
1952
Gelatin silver print

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975) 'Armor II' 1934

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
Armor II
1934
Gelatin silver print
15 7/10 × 11 4/5 in (40 × 30cm)

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975) 'Young men on Naxos' 1937

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
Young men on Naxos
1937
Gelatin silver print

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955) 'Untitled' 1936

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Untitled
1936
Gelatin silver print

 

 

In America George Platt Lynes was working as a fashion photographer. George Platt Lynes had his own studio in New York where he photographed dancers, artists and celebrities amongst others. He undertook a series of mythological photographs on classical themes (which are amazing for their composition which features Surrealist motifs). Privately he photographed male nudes but was reluctant to show them in public for fear of the harm that they could do to his reputation and business with the fashion magazines. Generally his earlier nude photographs concentrate on the idealised youthful body or ‘ephebe’. The 1936 photograph “Untitled” (above) is an exception. Here we gaze upon a smooth, defined muscular torso, the man (too old to be an ephebe) both in agony and ecstasy, his head thrown back, his eyes covered by one of his arms. Sightless he does not see the ‘other’ male hand that encloses his genitals, hiding them but also possibly about to molest them / release them at the same time. (NB. See my research notes on George Platt Lynes photographs in the Collection at the Kinsey Institute).

We can relate this photograph to Fred Holland Day’s photograph of “St. Sebastian” discussed earlier, this image stripped bare of most of the religious iconography of the previous image. The body is displayed for our adoration in all its muscularity, the lighting picking up the definition of diaphragm, ribs and chest, the hand hiding and perhaps, in the future, offering release to a suppressed sexuality. Here an-‘other’ hand is much closer to the origin of male2male sexual desire. Looking at this photograph you can visualise a sexual fantasy, so I imagine that it would have had the same effect on homosexual men when they looked at it in the 1930s.

In the slightly later nude photographs by George Platt Lynes the latent homo-eroticism evident in his earlier work becomes even more apparent.

In his image from 1942 “Untitled” we observe three young men in bare surroundings, likely to be Platt Lynes studio. The faces of the three men are not visible at all, evoking a sexual anonymity (According to David Leddick the models are Charles ‘Tex’ Smutney, Charles ‘Buddy’ Stanley, and Bradbury Ball.7 The image comes from a series of 30 photographs of these three boys undressing and lying on a bed together; please see my notes on Image 483 and others from this series in the Collection at The Kinsey Institute).

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled [Charles 'Tex' Smutney, Charles 'Buddy' Stanley, and Bradbury Ball]' c. 1942

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Untitled [Charles ‘Tex’ Smutney, Charles ‘Buddy’ Stanley, and Bradbury Ball]
c. 1942
Gelatin silver print

 

 

On a chair sits a pile of discarded clothes and in the background a man is removing the clothing of another man. The bulge of the man’s penis is quite visible through the material of the underpants. On the bed lies another man, face down, passive, unresisting, head turned away from us, the curve of his arse signalling a site of erotic activity for a gay man. Our gaze is directed to the arse of the man lying on the bed as a site of sexual desire and although nothing is actually happening in the photograph, there is a sexual ‘frisson’ in its composition.

As Lynes became more despondent with his career as a fashion photographer his private photographs of male nudes tended to take on a darker and sharper edge. After a period of residence in Hollywood he returned to New York nearly penniless. His style of photographing the male nude underwent a revision. While the photographs of his European colleagues still relied on the sun drenched bodies of young adolescent males evoking memories of classical beauty and the mythology of Ancient Greece the later nudes of Platt Lynes feature a mixture of youthful ephebes and heavier set bodies which appear to be more sexually knowing. The compositional style of dramatically lit photographs of muscular torsos of older men shot in close up (see the undated image “Untitled,” Frontal Male Nude, for example; see also my notes on this image, Image 144, in the Collection at The Kinsey Institute), were possibly influenced by a number of things – his time in Hollywood with its images of handsome, swash-buckling movie stars with broad chests and magnificent physiques; the images of bodybuilders by physique photographers that George Platt Lynes visited; the fact that his lover George Tichenor had been killed during WWII; and the knowledge that he was penniless and had cancer. There is, I think, a certain perhaps not desperation but sadness and strength in much of his later photographs of the male nude that harnesses the inherent sexual power embedded within their subject matter.

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled (Frontal Male Nude)' nd

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Untitled [Frontal Male Nude]
Nd
Gelatin silver print

Platt Lynes, George. “Untitled,” Nd in Ellenzweig, Allen. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, p. 103.
Courtesy: Estate of George Platt Lynes.

 

“The depth and commitment he had in photographing the male nude, from the start of his career to the end, was astonishing. There was absolutely no commercial impulse involved – he couldn’t exhibit it, he couldn’t publish it.”

Allen Ellenzweig. Introduction to George Platt Lynes: The Male Nudes. Rizzoli, 2011.

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled' 1953

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Untitled
Date unknown (early 1950s)
Gelatin silver print

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled' 1953

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Untitled
1953
Gelatin silver print

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Ted Starkowski (standing, arms behind back)' c. 1950

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Ted Starkowski (standing, arms behind back)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print from a paper negative

 

 

The monumentality of body and form was matched by a new openness in the representation of sexuality. There are intimate photographs of men in what seem to be post-coital revere, in unmade beds, genitalia showing or face down showing their butts off (See my description of Untitled Nude, 1946, in the Collection at The Kinsey Institute). Some of the faces in these later photographs remain hidden, as though disclosure of identity would be detrimental for fear of persecution. The “Untitled,” Frontal Male Nude photograph (above) is very ‘in your face’ for the conservative time from which it emerges, remembering it was the era of witch hunts against communists and subversives (including homosexuals).

This photograph is quite restrained compared to one of the most striking series of GPL’s photographs that I saw at The Kinsey Institute which involves an exploration the male anal area. A photograph from the 1951 series can be found in the book titled George Platt Lynes: Photographs from The Kinsey Institute.8 This image is far less explicit than other images of the same model from the same series that I saw during my research into GPL’s photographs at The Kinsey Institute,9 in particular one which depicts the model with his buttocks in the air pulling his arse cheeks apart (See my description of Images 186-194 in the Collection at The Kinsey Institute). After Lynes found out he had cancer he started to send his photographs to the German homoerotic magazine Der Kries under the pseudonym Roberto Rolf,10 and in the last years of his life he experimented with paper negatives, which made his images of the male body even more grainy and mysterious (See the photograph Ted Starkowski (1950, above), and see my notes on Male Nude 1951, in the Collection at The Kinsey Institute).

Personally I believe that Lynes understood, intimately, the different physical body types that gay men find desirable and used them in his photographs. He visited Lon of New York (a photographer of beefcake men) in his studio and purchased photographs of bodybuilders for himself, as did the German photographer George Hoyningen-Huene, another artist who was gay. It is likely that these images of bodybuilders did influence his later compositional style of images of men; it is also possible that he detected the emergence of this iconic male body type as a potent sexual symbol, one that that was becoming more visible and sexually available to gay men.

 

Max Dupain. 'Sunbaker' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Sunbaker
1937
Gelatin silver print

 

 

1930s Australian Body Architecture

Around the time that George Platt Lynes was photographing his earlier male nudes Max Dupain took what is seen to be an archetypal photograph of the Australian way of life. Called Sunbaker (1937, above), the photograph expresses the bronzed form of man lying prone on the ground, the man pressing his flesh into the warm sand as the sun beats down on a hot summers day. His hand touches the earth and his head rests, egg-like, on his arm. His shoulders remind me of the outline of Uluru (or Ayres Rock) in the centre of Australia, sculptural, almost cathedral like in their geometry and outline, soaring into the sky. Here the male body is a massive edifice, towering above the eye line, his body wet from the sea expressing the essence of Australian beach culture. In this photograph can be seen evidence of an Australian tradition of photographing hunky lifesavers and surfies to the delight of a gay audience which reached a peak in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, although I’m not sure that Max Dupain would have realised the homoerotic overtones of the photograph at the time.

 

Minor White

Another photographer haunted by his sexuality was the American Minor White. Disturbed by having been in battle in the Second World War and seeing some of his best male friends killed, White’s early photographs of men (in their uniforms) depict the suffering and anguish that the mental and physical stress of war can cause. He was even more upset than most because he was battling his own inner sexual demons at the same time, his shame and disgust at being a homosexual and attracted to men, a difficulty compounded by his religious upbringing. In his photographs White both denied his attraction to men and expressed it. His photographs of the male body are suffused with both sexual mystery and a celebration of his sexuality despite his bouts of guilt. After the war he started to use the normal everyday bodies of his friends to form sequences of photographs, sometimes using the body as a metaphor for the landscape and vice versa. Based on a religious theme the 1948 photograph Tom Murphy (San Francisco) (1948, below) from The Temptation of Saint Anthony is Mirrors, 1948, presents us with a dismembered hairy body front on, the hands clutching and caressing the body at the same time, the lower hand hovering near the exposed genitalia. As in the photographs of Platt Lynes we see the agony and ecstasy of a homo-erotic desire wrapped up in a religious or mythological theme.

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Tom Murphy (San Francisco)' 1948

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Tom Murphy (San Francisco)
1948
From The Temptation of Saint Anthony is Mirrors 1948
Gelatin silver print

 

Minor White (American, 1908–1976) 'Nude Foot, San Francisco' 1947

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Nude Foot, San Francisco
1947
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Other images (such as Nude Foot 1947, above) seem to have an aura of desire, mysticism, vulnerability and inner spirituality. White photographed when he was in a state of meditation, hoping for a “revelation,” a revealing of spirit in the subsequent negative and finally print. Perhaps this is why the young men in his photographs always seem vulnerable, alone, available, and have an air of mystery – they reflect his inner state of mind, and consequently express feelings about his own sexuality. In reading through my research notes on his photographs at The Minor White Archive, I notice that I found them a very intense, rich and rewarding experience. It was amazing to find Minor White photographs of erect penises dating from the 1940s amongst the archive but even more amazing was the presence that these photographs had for me. The other overriding feeling was one of perhaps loneliness, sadness, anguish(?), for the bodies seemed to be just observed and not partaken of. As with Platt Lynes photographs of men, very few of Minor White’s male portraits were ever exhibited in his lifetime because of his fear of being exposed as a homosexual.

 

Physique Culture after WW2

At the same time that Minor White was exploring anxieties surrounding his sexuality and his war experiences, many other American men were returning home from WWII to America to find that they had to reaffirm the traditional place of the male as the breadwinner within the family unit. Masculinity and a muscular body image was critical in this reaffirmation. Powerful in build and strong in image it was used to counter the threat of newly independent females, females who had taken over the jobs of men while they were away at war. Conversely, many gay men returned home to America after the war knowing that they were not as alone as they had previously thought, having socialised, associated, fought and had sex with others of their kind. There were other gay men out there in the world and the beginnings of contemporary gay society started to be formed. A desire by some gay men for the masculine body image found expression in the publications of body-building books and magazines that continued to be produced within the boundaries of social acceptability after the Second World War.

Photographers such as Russ Warner, Al Urban, Lon of New York (who began their careers in the late 1930’s), Bob Mizer (started Physique Pictorial in 1945), Charles Renslow (started Kris studio in 1954), and Bruce of Los Angeles, sought out models on both sides of the Atlantic (See my notes on the images of some of these photographers held in the Collection at the Kinsey Institute). Models appeared in posing pouches or the negatives were again airbrushed to hide offending genitalia. Some unpublished images from 1942-1950 by Bruce of Los Angeles show an older man sucking off a stiff younger man (See my notes on Images No. 52001-52004 from the link above) but this is the rare exception rather than the rule.

 

Bob Mizer/Athletic Model Guild. 'Irwin Kosewski and Jerry Ross' Nd

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992) / Athletic Model Guild
Irwin Kosewski and Jerry Ross
Nd

Mizer, Bob/Athletic Model Guild. “Irwin Kosewski and Jerry Ross,” Nd, in Domenique (ed.,). Art in Physique Photography. Vol. 1. Man’s World Publishing Company. Chesham: The Carlton Press, Nd, p. 19.

 

Joe Corey. 'Bill Henry and Bob Baker' Nd

 

Joe Corey
Bill Henry and Bob Baker
Nd

Corey, Joe. “Bill Henry and Bob Baker,” Nd, in Domenique (ed.,). Art in Physique Photography. Vol. 1. Man’s World Publishing Company. Chesham: The Carlton Press, Nd, p. 27.

 

 

Appealing to a closeted homosexual clientele the published images seem, on reflection, to have had a more open, homo-erotic quality to them than earlier physique photographs. This can be observed in the two undated images, “Irwin Kosewski and Jerry Ross,” by Bob Mizer / Athletic Model Guild and “Bill Henry and Bob Baker,” by Joe Carey. The first image carries on the tradition of the Sansone image “The Slave,” but further develops the sado-masochistic overtones; such wrestling photographs became popular just because the models were shown touching each other, which could provide sexual arousal for gay men looking at the photographs.

Some photographs were taken out of doors instead of always in the studio, possibly an expression of a more open attitude to ways of depicting the nude male body. The bodies in the ‘beefcake’ magazines of the 1950’s tend to be bigger than that of the ephebe, even when the models were quite young in some cases. As the name ‘beefcake’ implies, the muscular mesomorphic shape was the attraction of these bodies – perfectly proportioned Adonis’s with bulging pectorals, large biceps, hard as rock abdomens and small waists. The 1950’s saw the beginning of the fixation of gay men with the muscular mesomorph as the ultimate ideal image of a male body. The lithe bodies of young dancers and swimmers now gives way to muscle – a built body, large in its construction, solid and dependable, sculpted like a piece of rock. These bodies are usually smooth and it is difficult to find a hirsute body11 in any of the photographs from the physique magazines of this time. According to Alan Berube in his book, Coming Out Under Fire,

“The post-war growth and commercialization of gay male erotica in the form of mail-order 8 mm films, photographic stills, and physique magazines were developed in part by veterans and drew heavily on World War II uniforms and iconography for erotic imagery.”12

.
Looking through images from the 1940s in the collection at The Kinsey Institute, I did find that uniforms were used as a fetish in some of the explicitly erotic photographs as a form of sexual iconography. These photographs of male2male sex were for private consumption only. I found little evidence of the use of uniforms as sexual iconography in the published photographs of the physique magazines. Here image composition mainly featured classical themes, beach scenes, outdoor and studio settings.

 

Touko Valio Laaksonen (Tom of Finland) (Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' 1973

 

Touko Valio Laaksonen (Tom of Finland) (Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled
1973

 

'Physique Pictorial' Volume 7, Number 1, Spring 1957

 

Physique Pictorial Volume 7, Number 1, Spring 1957. Tom of Finland, Touko Laaksonen (cover)

This issue features the debut American appearance of “Tom, a Finnish artist,” a.k.a. Tom of Finland who produced both the cover illustration of loggers and an interior companion shot.

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992) / Athletic Model Guild. Cover of 'Physique Pictorial' Vol. 14, No. 2, 1964

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992) / Athletic Model Guild
Cover of Physique Pictorial Vol. 14, No. 2, 1964
32 pages, black and white illustrations
Illustrated saddle-stapled self-wrappers
21cm x 13cm

 

 

Tom of Finland

Although not a photographer one gay artist who was heavily influenced by the uniforms and muscularity of soldiers he lusted after and had sex with during the war was Touko Laaksonen, known as ‘Tom of Finland’. His images featured hunky, leather clad bikers, sailors, and rough trade ploughing their enlarged, engorged penises up the rears of chunky men in graphic scenes of male2male sex. His images portrayed gay men as the hard-bodied epitome of masculinity, contrary to the nancy boy image of the limp wristed poof that was the stereotype in the hetero / homosexual community up until the 1960s and even later. His early images were again only for private consumption. His first success was a (non-sexual) drawing of a well built male body that he sent to America. It appeared on the cover of the spring 1957 issue of Physique Pictorial (above). Here we see a link between the drawings of Tom of Finland and the construction of a body engineered towards selling to a homosexual market, the male body as marketable commodity. His drawings of muscular men were influenced by the bodies in the beefcake magazines and the bodies of the soldiers he desired. Tom of Finland, in an exaggerated way, portrayed the desirability of this type of body for gay men by emphasising that, for him, gay sex and gay bodies are ultimately ‘masculine’.

 

1950s Australia

Very little of this iconography of the muscular male was available to gay men in Australia throughout the 1950’s. The few publications that became available were likely to have come from America or the United Kingdom. Instead heterosexual photographers such as Max Dupain took images of Australian beach culture such as the 1952 image At Newport, Australia, 1952 (below). Dupain took a series of photographs of this beautiful young man, ‘the lad’ as he calls him,13 climbing out of the pool. Elegant in its structural form ‘the lad’ is oblivious to the camera’s and our gaze. Although the body is toned and tanned this body image is a much more ‘natural’ representation of the male body than the photographs in the physique magazines, with all their posing and preening for the camera.

 

Max Dupain. 'At Newport Baths' 1952

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
At Newport, Australia, 1952
1952
Gelatin silver print

Dupain, Max. “At Newport, Australia, 1952.” 1952, in Bilson, Amanda (ed.,). Max Dupain’s Australia. Ringwood: Viking, 1986, p. 157.

 

John Graham. 'Clive Norman' Nd

 

John Graham
Clive Norman
Nd

Graham, John. “Clive Norman,” Nd in Domenique (ed.,). Art in Physique Photography Vol. 1. Man’s World Publishing Company. Chesham: The Carlton Press, Nd, p. 38.

 

John Graham. 'Detail from Parthenon Frieze'. Elgin Marble Friezes, British Museum Nd and Lon of New York in London. 'Jim Stevens' Nd

 

John Graham
Detail from Parthenon Frieze
Elgin Marble Friezes, British Museum
Nd

Lon of New York in London
Jim Stevens
Nd

Graham, John. “Detail from Parthenon Frieze.” Elgin Marble Friezes, British Museum, Nd in Domenique (ed.,). Art in Physique Photography. Vol. 1. Man’s World Publishing Company. Chesham: The Carlton Press, Nd, p. vi.

Lon of New York in London. “Jim Stevens,” Nd in Domenique (ed.,). Art in Physique Photography. Vol. 1. Man’s World Publishing Company. Chesham: The Carlton Press, Nd, p. 13.

 

 

Later Physique Culture and gay pornography photographs

Images of the body in the physique magazines of the 1940s-1960s are invariably smooth, muscular and defined. A perfect example of the type can be seen in the undated image Clive Norman by John Graham (above). The images rely heavily on the iconography of classical Rome and Greece to legitimise their homo-erotic overtones. Use was made of columns, drapery, and sets that presented the male body as the contemporary equivalent of idealised male beauty of ancient times.

As the 1950s turned into the 1960s other stereotypes became available to the photographers – for example the imagery of the marine, the sailor, the biker, the boy on a tropical island, the wrestler, the boxer, the mechanic. The photographs become more raunchy in their depiction of male nudity. In the 1950s, however, classical aspirations were never far from the photographers minds when composing the images as can be seen in the undated photograph Jim Stevens by Lon of New York in London (above) taken from a book called ‘Art in Physique Photography’.14 This book, illustrated with drawings of classical warrior figures by David Angelo, is subtitled: ‘An Album of the world’s finest photographs of the male physique’.

Here we observe a link between art and the body. This connection was used to confirm the social acceptability of physique photographs of the male body while still leaving them open to other alternative readings. One alternative reading was made by gay men who could buy these socially acceptable physique magazines to gaze with desire upon the naked form of the male body. It is interesting to note that with the advent of the first openly gay pornography magazines after the ruling on obscenity by the Supreme Court in America in the late 1960s (See my research notes on this subject from The One Institute),15 classical figures were still used to justify the desiring gaze of the camera and viewer upon the bodies of men. Another reason used by early gay pornography magazines to justify photographs of men having sex together was that the images were only for educational purposes!

Even in the mid 1970s companies such as Colt Studios, which has built a reputation for photographing hunky, very well built masculine men, used classical themes in their photography of muscular young men. Most of the early Colt magazines have photographs of naked young men that are accompanied by photographs and illustrations based on classical themes as can be seen in the image below. In their early magazines quite a proportion of the bodies were hirsute or had moustaches as was popular with the clone image at the time. Later models of the early 1980s tend towards the buff, tanned, stereotypical muscular mesomorph in even greater numbers. Sometimes sexual acts are portrayed in Colt magazines but mainly they are not. It is the “look” of the body and the face that the viewers desiring gaze is directed towards – not the sexual act itself. As the Colt magazine says,

“Our aim in Olympus is to wed the classic elegance of ancient Greece and Rome to the contemporary look of the ’70s. With some models that takes some doing: they may have one or two exceptional features, but the overall picture doesn’t make it … Erron, our current subject, comes closer to the ideal – in his own way … Erron stands 5’10”. He is 22 years old and is the spirit of the free-wheeling, unhampered single stud … And to many the morning after, he is ‘the man that got away’.”16

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Erron' 1973

 

Anonymous photographer
Erron
Olympus from Colt Studios Vol. 1. No 2.
1973

 

 

Erron does attempt to come closer to the ‘ideal’ but not, I think, in his own way for it is an ‘ideal’ based on a stereotypical masculine image from a past culture. Is he doing his own thing or someone else’s thing, based on an image already prescribed from the past?

As social morals relaxed in the age of ‘free love’, physique photographers such as Bob Mizer from Athletic Model Guild produced more openly homo-erotic images. In his work from the 1970s full erections are not prevalent but semi-erect penises do feature, as do revealing “moon” shots from the rear focusing on the arsehole as a site for male libidinal desires. A less closeted, more open expression of homosexual desire can be seen in the photographs of the male body in the 1970s.17 What can also be seen in the images of gay pornography magazines from the mid 1970s onwards is the continued development of the dominant stereotypical ‘ideal’ body image that is present in contemporary gay male society – that of the smooth, white, tanned, muscular mesomorphic body image.

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Muscle Man in his dressing room with trophy, Brooklyn, N.Y.' 1962

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Muscle Man in his dressing room with trophy, Brooklyn, N.Y.
1962
Gelatin silver print

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971) 'Seated man in a bra and stockings, N.Y.C., 1967' 1967

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Seated man in a bra and stockings, N.Y.C., 1967
1967
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Diane Arbus

In the 1960s and 1970s other photographers were also interested in alternative representations of the male body, notably Diane Arbus. Arbus was renowned for ‘in your face’ photographs of the supposed oddities and freaks of society. She photographed body-builders with their trophies, dwarfs, giants, and all sorts of interesting people she found fascinating because of their sexual orientation, hobbies and fetishes. She photographed gay men, lesbians and transsexuals in their homes and hangouts.

I think the image Seated man in a bra and stockings, N.Y.C., 1967 (above), reveals a different side of masculinity, not conforming to the stereotypical depiction of ‘masculinity’ proposed by the form of the muscular body. Yes, the subject is wary of the camera, hand gripping the chair arm, legs crossed in a protective manner. But I think that the important significance of this photograph lies in the fact that the subject allowed himself to be photographed at all, with his face visible, prepared to reveal this portion of his life to the probing of Arbus’ lens. In the closeted and conservative era of the 1960s (remember this is before Gay Liberation), to allow himself to be photographed in this way would have taken an act of courage, because of the fear of discrimination and persecution including the possible loss of job, home, friends, family and even life if this photograph ever came to the attention of employers, landlords and bigots.

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Charles and Jim' 1974

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Charles and Jim' 1974

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Charles and Jim
1974
Gelatin silver prints

Mapplethorpe, Robert. Charles and Jim, 1974, in Holborn, Mark and Levas, Dimitri. Mapplethorpe Altars. London: Jonathan Cape, 1995, pp. 26-27.

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'White Sheet' 1974 (detail)

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
White Sheet (detail)
1974
Gelatin silver print

Mapplethorpe, Robert. Detail of White Sheet, 1974, in Holborn, Mark and Levas, Dimitri. Mapplethorpe Altars. London: Jonathan Cape, 1995, p. 74.

 

 

Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe. The name of one of the most controversial photographers of the 20th century. Well known to gay men around the world for his ground breaking depiction of sexuality and the body through his photographs of black men and the sadomasochistic acts within the leather scene in gay community. The exhibiting of his images was only possible after the liberation of sexualities brought about by Stonewall and the start of the fight for Gay Liberation in 1969. Early images, such as three from the sequence of photographs Charles and Jim (1974, above) feature ‘natural’ bodies – hairy, scrawny, thin – in close physical proximity with each other, engaged in gay sex, sucking each others dicks in other photographs from this sequence. There is a tenderness and affection to the whole sequence, as the couple undress, suck, kiss and embrace. Compare the photographs with the photograph by Minor White of Tom Murphy (San Francisco) (1948, above) Gone is the religious agony, loneliness and isolation of a man (the photographer), who fears an open expression of his sexuality, replaced by the gaze and touch of a man comfortable with his sexuality and the object of his desire.

Although Mapplethorpe used the bodies of his friends and himself in the early photographs he was still drawn to images of muscular men that had a definite homoerotic quality to them, as can be seen in the detail of the 1974 work White Sheet. Blatant in its hard muscularity the boys stare at each other, flexing their muscles, one arm around the back of the others neck. This attraction to the perfect muscular body became more obvious in the later work of Mapplethorpe, especially in his depiction of black men and their hard, graphic bodies. Mapplethorpe even used to coat his black models in graphite so that the skin took on a grey lustre, adding to the feeling that the skin was made of marble and was impenetrable. Mapplethorpe’s photographs of black men come from a lineage that can be traced back through Frederick Holland Day (see below) to Herbert List and George Platt Lynes who all photographed black men. In the 1979 image of Bob Love (below), Mapplethorpe worships the body and the penis of Bob Love, placing him on a pedestal reminiscent of those used in the physique magazines of an earlier era.

 

F. Holland Day. 'Ebony and Ivory' 1899

 

F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
Ebony and Ivory
1899

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Bob Love' 1979

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Bob Love
1979
Gelatin silver print

Mapplethorpe, Robert. Bob Love, 1979, in Holborn, Mark and Levas, Dimitri. Mapplethorpe Altars. London: Jonathan Cape, 1995, p. 71.

 

 

Around the same time that Mapplethorpe was photographing the first of his black nudes he was also portraying acts of sexual pleasure in his photographs of the gay S/M scene. In these photographs the bodies are usually shielded from scrutiny by leather and rubber but are more revealing of the intentions and personalities of the people depicted in them, perhaps because Mapplethorpe was taking part in these activities himself as well as just depicting them. There is a sense of connection with the people and the situations that occur before his lens in the S/M photographs. In the photograph of Bob, however, Bob stares out at the viewer in a passive way, revealing nothing of his own personality, directed by the photographer, portrayed like a trophy. I believe this isolation, this objectivity becomes one of the undeniable criticisms of most of Mapplethorpe’s later photographs of the body – they reveal nothing but the clarity of perfect formalised beauty and aesthetic design, sometimes fragmented into surfaces. Mapplethorpe liked to view the body as though cut up into pieces, into different libidinal zones, much as in the reclaimed artefacts of classical sculpture. The viewer is seduced by the sensuous nature of the bodies surfaces, the body objectified for the viewers pleasure. The photographs reveal very little of the inner self of the person being photographed. This surface quality can also be seen in earlier work such as the 1976 photograph of bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger (1976, below).

 

Lorenzo Lotto (Italian, c. 1480 - 1556/1557) 'Young Man Before a White Curtain' c. 1506/1508

 

Lorenzo Lotto (Italian, c. 1480 – 1556/1557)
Young Man Before a White Curtain
c. 1506/1508
Oil on canvas

Lotto, Lorenzo. Young Man Before a White Curtain, Oil on Canvas. c. 1506/1508, in Schneider, Norbert. The Art of the Portrait. Koln: Benedikt Taschen, 1994, p. 66.

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Arnold Schwarzenegger' 1976

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Arnold Schwarzenegger
1976
Gelatin silver print

Mapplethorpe, Robert. Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1976, in Ellenzweig, Allen. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, p. 139.

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971) 'A naked man being a woman, N.Y.C.' 1968

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
A naked man being a woman, N.Y.C. 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

Arbus, Diane. A naked man being a woman, N.Y.C. 1968, 1968, in An Aperture Monograph. Diane Arbus. New York: Millerton, 1972.

 

 

In the photograph Schwarzenegger is placed on bare floorboards with a heavy curtain pulled back to reveal a white wall. We can see connections to an oil painting by the Italian Lorenzo Lotto. According to Norbert Schneider in his book The Art of the Portrait the curtain motif is adapted from devotional painting and was used as a symbolic, majestical backdrop for saints.18 The curtain may be seen as a ‘velum’ to veil whatever was behind it, or by an act of ‘re-velatio’, or pulling aside of the curtain, reveal what is behind. In both the painting and the photograph very little is revealed about the person’s inner self, despite the fact that in Mapplethorpe’s photograph the curtain has been tied back. Schwarzenegger stands before a barren white wall, on bare floorboards. The photograph reveals nothing about his inner self or his state of mind; it is a barren landscape. Nothing is revealed about his personality or identity save that he is a bodybuilder with a body made up of large muscles that has been posed for the camera; his facial expression and look are blank much like the wall behind him. The body becomes a marketable product, the polished surface fetishised in its perfection.

Compare this photograph with the A naked man being a woman, N.Y.C. 1968, by Diane Arbus taken six years earlier (above). Again a figure stands before parted curtains in a room. Here we see an androgynous figure of a man being a woman surrounded by the physical evidence of his/her existence. The body is not muscular but of a ‘natural’ type, one leg slightly bent in quite a feminine gesture, a hand on the hip. Behind the figure is a bed, covered in a blanket. On the chair in front of the curtains and on the bed behind lies discarded clothing and the detritus of human existence. We can also see a suitcase behind the chair leg, an open beer or soft drink can on the floor and what looks like an electrical heater behind the figures legs. We are made aware we are looking at the persons place of living, of sleeping, of the bed where the person sleeps and possibly has sex. Framed by the open curtains the painted face with the plucked eyebrows stares back at us with a much more engaging openness, the body placed within the context of its lived surroundings, unlike the photograph of Schwarzenegger. Much is revealed about the psychological state of the owner and how he lives and what he likes to do. The black and white shading behind the curtains reveals the yin/yang dichotomy, the opposite and the same of his personality far better than the blank white wall that stands behind Mapplethorpe’s portrait of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

 

Arthur Tress (American, b. 1940) 'Superman Fantasy' 1977

 

Arthur Tress (American, b. 1940)
Superman Fantasy
1977
Gelatin silver print

Arthur Tress. Superman Fantasy, 1977, in Ellenzweig, Allen. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, p. 143.

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955) 'Image No. 9 from an Untitled Sequence 1977' 1977

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955)
Image No.9 from an Untitled Sequence 1977
1977
Gelatin silver print

Henson, Bill. Image No.9 from an Untitled sequence 1977, 1977, in Henson, Bill. Bill Henson: Photographs 1974-1984. (exhibition catalogue). Melbourne: Deutscher Fine Art, 1989.

 

 

Arthur Tress, Bill Henson and Bruce Weber

Arthur Tress was not a photographer that pandered to the emerging “lifestyle” cult of gay masculinity that was beginning to formulate towards the end of the 1970’s and the early 1980’s. Borrowing elements from both a ‘camp’ aesthetic and Surrealism, his images from this time parodied the inner identity of gay men, prodding and poking beneath the surface of both the gay male psyche and their fantasies. In the 1977 image Superman Fantasy (above), Tress conveys the desire of some gay men for the ‘ideal’ of the superhero, powerful, with muscular body and large penis. But the desiree has a ‘natural’ body and it is his penis that projects between the Superman’s thighs. Superman is only a fantasy, a cut out figure with no relief, and Tress pokes fun at gay men who desire heroic masculine body images to reinforce their own sense masculinity.

At the same time in Australia there emerged the work of the photographer Bill Henson. Again, he did not use stereotypical masculine body images. In an early 1977 sequence of his work (above), we see a young man who looks emaciated (almost like a living skeleton) at rest, a moment of stasis while apparently in the act of masturbating. Here Henson links the sexual act (although never seen in the photographs) with death. Visually Henson represents Georges Bataille’s idea that the ecstasy of an orgasm is like the oblivion of death. The body in sex uses power as part of its attraction and the ultimate expression of power is death; this sequence of photographs links the two ideas together visually. With the explicit medical link between sex and death because of the HIV/AIDS virus these photographs have a powerful resonance within a contemporary social context, the emaciated body now associated in people’s minds with a person dying from AIDS.

Other photographers, notably Bruce Weber, confirmed the constructed ‘ideal’ of the commodified masculine body. Body became product, became part of an overall purchased “lifestyle,” chic, beautiful and available if you have enough money. Working mainly as a fashion photographer with an aspiration to high art, Weber paraded a plethora of stunning white, buff, muscular males before his lens. Advertising companies, such as Calvin Klein swooped on this image of perfect male flesh and played with the ambiguous homo-erotic possibilities inherent within the images. Gay men fell for what they saw as the epitome of ‘masculinity’, a reflection of their own “straight-acting” masculinity. These photographs, with a genetic lineage dating from Sansone and the photographs of sportsmen by German photographer Leni Riefenstahl in the 1930’s, are almost utopian in their aesthetic idealisation of the body.

In his personal work, examples of which can be seen below, Bruce Weber maintains his interest in the perfection of the male form. These men are just All American Jocks, supposedly your everyday boy next door, possessing no sexuality other than a placid, flaccid non-threatening penis, no messy secretions or interactions being attached to the bodies at all. There is no hint of disease or dis-ease among these images or models, even though AIDS was emerging at this time as a major killer of gay men. Perhaps even the possibility of homo/sexuality/identity is denied in the perfection of their form placed, like the Mapplethorpe photograph of Schwarzenegger, against a non-descriptive background, a context-less body in a context-less photograph.

 

Bruce Weber (American, b. 1946) 'Dan Harvey, New York Jets Trainer' 1983

 

Bruce Weber (American, b. 1946)
Dan Harvey, New York Jets Trainer
1983
Gelatin silver print

Weber, Bruce. Dan Harvey, New York Jets Trainer, 1983, 1983, in Cheim, John. Bruce Weber. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1988.

 

Bruce Weber (American, b. 1946) 'Paul Wadina, Santa Barbara California' 1987

 

Bruce Weber (American, b. 1946)
Paul Wadina, Santa Barbara California
1987
Gelatin silver print

Weber, Bruce. Paul Wadina, Santa Barbara, California, 1987, 1987, in Cheim, John. Bruce Weber. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1988.

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Fred with Tires' 1984

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Fred with Tires
1984
Gelatin silver print
24 × 20 in (61 × 50.8cm)

Ritts, Herb. Fred with Tires, 1984, in Ellenzweig, Allen. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, p. 195.

 

 

Herb Ritts, Queer Press, Queer body

Fred with Tires (1984, above) became possibly the archetypal photograph of the male body in the 1980’s and made the world-wide reputation of its commercial photographer, Herb Ritts. Gay men flocked to buy it, including myself. I was drawn by the powerful, perfectly sculpted body, the butchness of his job, the dirty trousers, the boots and the body placed within the social context. At the time I realised that the image of this man was a constructed fantasy, ie., not the ‘real’ thing, and this feeling of having been deceived has grown ever since. His hair is teased up and beautifully styled, the grease is applied to his body just so, his body twisted to just the right degree to accentuate the muscles of the stomach and around the pelvis. You can just imagine the stylist standing off camera ready to readjust the hair if necessary, the assistants with their reflectors playing more light onto the body. This/he is the seduction of a marketable homoeroticsm, the selling of an image as sex, almost camp in its overt appeal to gay archetypal stereotypes. Herb Ritts, whether in his commercial work or in his personal images such as those of the gay bodybuilders Bob Paris and Rod Jackson, has helped increase the acceptance of the openly homo-erotic photograph in a wider sphere but this has been possible only with an increased acceptance of homosexual visibility within the general population. Openly gay bodies such as that of Australian rugby league star Ian Roberts or American diver Greg Luganis can become heroes and role models to young gay men coming out of the closet for the first time, visible evidence that gay men are everywhere in every walk of life. This is great because young gay men do need gay role models to look up to but the bodies they possess only conform to the one type, that of the muscular mesomorph and this reinforces the ideal of a traditional virile masculinity. Yes, the guy in the shower next to you might be a poofter, might be queer for heavens sake, but my God, what a body he’s got!

Herb Ritts photographs are still based on the traditional physique magazine style of the 1950’s as can be seen from the examples below. He also borrows heavily from the work of George Platt Lynes and the idealised perfection of Mapplethorpe. The bodies he uses construct themselves (through going to the gym) as the ‘ideal’ of what men should look like. Seduced by the perfection of his bodies gay men have rushed to the gym since the early 1980’s in an attempt to emulate the ideal that Ritts proposes, to belong to the ‘in’ crowd, to have “the look”. (This idealisation continues to this day in 2022).

From different cultures around the world other artists who are gay have also succumbed to the heroic musculature that is the modern day epitome of the representation of gay masculinity. Although he denies any linkage to the work of ‘Tom of Finland’, Sadao Hasegawa portrays the body as a demigod using traditional Japanese and Western iconography to emphasise his themes of homosexual bondage and ritual (see below). The body in his Shunga (Japanese erotic) paintings and drawings, as in most art and images of the muscular male, becomes a phallus, the armoured body being a metaphor for the hidden power of the penis, signifying the power of mesomorphic men over women and ‘other’ not so well endowed men.

 

Bob Delmonteque (American) 'Glenn Bishop' 1950s

 

Bob Delmonteque (American)
Glenn Bishop
1950s
Gelatin silver print

Delmonteque, Bob. Glenn Bishop, 1950s, in Domenique (ed.,). Art in Physique Photography. Vol. 1. Man’s World Publishing Company. Chesham: The Carlton Press, Nd, p. 8.

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Male Nude with Bubble, Los Angeles' 1987

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Male Nude with Bubble, Los Angeles
1987
Gelatin silver print

Ritts, Herb. Male Nude with Bubble, Los Angeles, 1987, in Ellenzweig, Allen. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, p. 194.

 

Sadao Hasegawa (Japanese, 1945-1999) 'Untitled' 1990

 

Sadao Hasegawa (Japanese, 1945-1999)
Untitled
1990

Hasegawa, Sadao. Untitled, 1990, in Blue Magazine. Sydney: Studio Magazines, April 1997, p. 50.

 

 

But there are still other artists who are gay who challenge the orthodoxy of such stereotypical images, using as their springboard the ‘sensibility’ of queer theory, a theory that critiques perspectives of social and cultural ‘normality’. With the explosion of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the mid 1980’s, numerous artists started to address issues of the body: isolation, disease, death, beauty, gay sex, friendship between men, the inscription of the bodies surface, and the place of gay men in the world in a critical and valuable way. Ted Gott, commenting on Lex Middleton’s 1992 image Gay Beauty Myth (below) in the book Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS observes that the image,

“… reconsiders Bruce Weber’s luscious photography of the naked male body for Calvin Klein’s celebrated underwear advertising campaigns of the early 1980s. The proliferation of Weber / Klein glistening pectorals and smouldering body tone across the billboards of the United States was reaching its crescendo at the same time as the gay male ‘body’ came under threat from a ‘new’ disease not yet identified as HIV/AIDS. In opposing the rippling musculature and perfect visage of an athlete with the fragmented image of a Calvin Klein Y-fronted ‘ordinary’ man, Middleton questions the ‘gay beauty myth’, both as it touches gay men who do not fit the ‘look’ that advertising has decreed applicable to their sexuality, and from the projected perspective of HIV positive gay men who face the reality of the daily decay of their bodies.”

.
Other artists, such as David McDiarmid in his celebrated series of safe sex posters for the AIDS Council of New South Wales (below)) critique the body as site for libidinal and deviant pleasures for both positive and negative gay men as long as this is always undertaken safely. In the example from the series “Some of Us Get Out of It, Some of Us Don’t. All of Us Fuck With a Condom, Every Time,” 1992, we see a brightly coloured body, both positive and negative, filled with parties, drugs and alcohol, spreading the arse cheeks to make the arsehole the site of gay male desire. Note however, that the body still has huge arms, strong legs, and a massive back redolent of the desire of gay men for the muscular mesomorphic body image.

 

Lex Middleton. 'Gay Beauty Myth' 1992

 

Lex Middleton (Australian)
Gay Beauty Myth
1992
Gelatin silver photographs

 

David McDiarmid (Australian, 1952-1995) 'Some of Us Get Out of It, Some of Us Don't. All of Us Fuck With a Condom, Every Time!' 1992

 

David McDiarmid (Australian, 1952-1995)
Some of Us Get Out of It, Some of Us Don’t. All of Us Fuck With a Condom, Every Time!
1992
Colour offset print on paper
67.1 x 44.5cm

AIDS Council of New South Wales / McDiarmid, David (designer). Some of Us Get Out of It, Some of Us Don’t. All of Us Fuck With a Condom, Every Time! 1992, in Gott, Ted (ed.,). Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS. Melbourne: Thames and Hudson/NGA, 1994, p. 154.

 

Brenton Heath-Kerr (Australian, 1962-1995) 'Homosapien' 1994

 

Brenton Heath-Kerr (Australian, 1962-1995)
Homosapien
1994
Laminated photomechanical reproductions and cloth

Heath-Kerr, Brenton. “Homosapien,” 1994, in Gott, Ted (ed.,). Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS. Melbourne: Thames and Hudson/NGA, 1994, p. 75.

 

 

More revealing (literally) was the work and performance art of Brenton Heath-Kerr. Growing out of his involvement in the dance party scene in Sydney, Australia in 1991, Heath-Kerr’s combination of costume and photography made his creations come to life, and he sought to critique the narcissistic elements of this gay dance culture, such as the Mardi Gras and Sleaze Ball parties. Later work included the figure Homosapiens (1994, above) which observes the workings of the body laid bare by the ravages of HIV/AIDS and comments on the politics of governments who control funding for drugs to treat those who are infected.

Californian photographer Albert J. Winn, in his series My Life until Now (1993, below) does not seek to elicit sympathy for his incurable disease, but positions his having the disease as only a small part of his overall personality and life. Other photographs in the series feature pictures of his lover, his home, old family photographs, and texts reflecting on his childhood, sexuality, and religion. As Albert J. Winn comments,

“The pictures from My Life Until Now are a progression of thinking about identity. Now I am a gay man, a gay man with AIDS, a Jew, a lover, a person who has books on the shelf, etc., not just another naked gay man with another naked gay man, and I tried to load the photograph(s) with information. I feel I am determining my identity by making the choice to show all this stuff.”

.
Personally I believe that integrating your sexuality into your overall identity is the last, most important part of ‘coming out’ as a gay man, and this phenomenon is what Albert J. Winn, in his own way, is commenting on.

One of my favourite artists, now dead, who just happened to be gay and critiqued the social landscape was named David Wojnarowicz. Using an eclectic mix of black and white and colour photography (mainly 35mm), drawing, painting, collage, documenting of performances and sculpture, Wojnarowicz created a commentary on his world, the injustices, the sex, the politics, the brutality, the environments, and the people who inhabited them to name just a little of his subject matter. The Untitled 1988-1989 image from the Sex Series (below) is not a collage but a photomontage, two colour slides reverse printed onto black and white paper to make the negative image. Images from the series feature text, babies, all manner of different sexual persuasions, tornadoes, trains, ships, war images, and cells. Wojnarowicz himself states that,

“By mixing variation of sexual expressions there is an attempt to dismantle the structures formed by category; all are affected by laws and policies. The spherical structures embedded in the series are about examination and or surveillance. Looking through a microscope or looking through a telescope or the monitoring that takes place in looking through the lens of a set of binoculars. Its all about oppression and suppression.”

.
Oppression and suppression are the continuing themes in Wojnarowicz’s 1989 image, Bad Moon Rising (below). Here the wounded body of St. Sebastian, a recurring figure in gay iconography, has been impaled not just by arrows but by a tree, the mythological ‘tree of life’ growing up/down, from/into the ‘earth’ of money, the politics of consumerism and the illness of consumption. Again, in the small vignettes we observe the home, the sex, time, cells and their surveillance.

 

Albert J Winn (American, 1947-2014) 'Drug Related Skin Rashes' 1993

 

Albert J Winn (American, 1947-2014)
Drug Related Skin Rashes
1993
Silver gelatin photograph

Winn, Albert J. Drug Related Skin Rashes, from the series My Life Until Now, 1993, in Gott, Ted (ed.,). Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS. Melbourne: Thames and Hudson/NGA, 1994, p. 224.

 

David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) 'Untitled' 1989 From the 'Sex Series (For Marion Scemama)'

 

David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954-1992)
Untitled
1989
From the Sex Series

 

David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) 'Untitled' 1989 From the 'Sex Series (For Marion Scemama)'

 

David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954-1992)
Untitled
1989
From the Sex Series

 

David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) 'Bad Moon Rising' 1989

 

David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954-1992)
Bad Moon Rising
1989
Black and white photographs, acrylic, string, and collage on Masonite

Wojnarowicz, David. Bad Moon Rising, 1989, in Harris, Melissa. Brushfires in the Social Landscape. New York: Aperture Publications, 1994, p. 39.

 

 

And so it goes…

Meanwhile in Australia, the burgeoning cult of body worship was being fuelled by the more traditional homo-erotic photographs from America. This iconography was assimilated by local commercial photographers. They played with the traditions of surf, sand, sun and sea for which Australia is renowned and Dennis Maloney, in particular, concentrated his attention on the surf lifesavers that patrolled the beach during surf carnivals. He photographed the guys with their well built tanned bodies, good looks, swimming costumes pulled up between buttocks, and let the homosexual market for such images do the rest. He also photographed what I would classify as soft-core porn images such as the Untitled 1990 image from the series Sons of Beaches (below), the idyllic man in his reverie, wet bathing costume moulded to the curve of his buttocks, legs spread invitingly in a suggestive homo-erotic sexual position.

This trend of using images of the muscular, smooth male body for both commercial purposes and as the ‘ideal’ of what a gay man should look like continues unabated to this day. Pick up any local gay newspaper or magazine and they are full of adverts for chat lines or escorts that feature this body type. The news photographs from around the clubs also feature nearly naked well built men with their buffed torsos.

Most images on the Internet also feature this particular body type (below), whether they belong to commercial sites or as the images that are chosen, desired and lusted after in the galleries of private home pages. The most alternative photographs of the male body I have found on the Internet occur when they are the personal photographs of their authors, when they picture themselves (below). These images exhibit a massive variety in the shape, size, hirsuteness and colour of gay men, most of whom don’t come anywhere near to the supposed ‘ideal’. And what of the future for the male body? Perhaps you would like to read the Future Press chapter in the CD ROM to get a few ideas.

Dr Marcus Bunyan 2001

 

Denis Maloney (Australian) 'Untitled' c. 1990

 

Denis Maloney (Australian)
Untitled
c. 1990
From the series Sons of Beaches
Colour photograph

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Untitled' 1998

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled
1998
Image from a commercial Internet web page

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Untitled' 1998

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled
1998
Image from a commercial Internet web page

 

 

Footnotes

  1. Anonymous (French). “Male Nude Study.” Daguerreotype, c. 1843, in Ewing, William. The Body. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1994, p. 65. Courtesy: Stefan Richter, Reutlingen, Germany.
  2. “One of the things that interests me is the problem of friendship … You can find, from the sixteenth century on, texts explicitly criticize friendship as something dangerous. The army, bureaucracy, administration, universities, schools, et cetera – in the modern senses of these words – cannot function with such intense friendships. I think there can be seen a very strong attempt in all these institutions to diminish, or minimize, the affectional relations … One of my hypotheses … is that homosexuality became a problem – that is, sex between men became a problem – in the eighteenth century. We see the rise of it as a problem with the police, within the justice system, and so on. I think the reason it appears as a problem, as a social issue, at this time is that friendship has disappeared. As long as friendship was something important, was socially accepted, nobody realized men had sex together. You couldn’t say that men didn’t have sex together – it just didn’t matter … Once friendship disappeared as a culturally accepted relation, the issue arose, “What is going on between men?” And that’s when the problem appears … I’m sure I’m right, that the disappearance of friendship as a social relation and the declaration of homosexuality as a social / political / medical problem are the same process.” (My emphasis).
    Gallagher, Bob and Wilson, Alexander. “Sex and the Politics of Identity: An Interview with Michel Foucault,” in Thompson, Mark. Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987, pp. 32-34.
  3. The formation of ‘The Cult of Muscularity’ in the last decade of the 19th century was a reaction to the perceived effeminisation of heterosexual masculinity. The position of the active, heroic hetero-male was under attack from the passivity of industrialisation, from the expansion of women’s rights and their ability to become breadwinners, and through the naming of deviant sexualities that were seen as a threat to the stability of society. By naming deviant sexualities they became visible to the general public for the fist time, creating apprehension in the minds of men gazing upon the bodies of other men lest they be thought of as ‘pansies’… Muscles became the sign of heterosexual power, prowess, and virility. A man had control over his body and his physical world. His appearance affected how he interacted with this world, how he saw himself, and was seen by others, and how closely he matched the male physical ‘ideal’ impacted on his own levels of self-esteem. The gymnasium became a meeting point for exercise, for health, for male bonding, and to show off your undoubted ‘masculinity’. Sporting and war heroes became national icons. Muscle proved the ‘masculinity’ of men, fit for power, fit to dominate women and less powerful men. By the 1950s this masculine identity construction was well established in America and many gay men sought to hid their perceived feminine traits, their (homo)sexuality from public view for fear of persecution.
    Bunyan, Marcus. “Bench Press,” in Marcus Bunyan. Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male. RMIT University, Melbourne, 2001.
  4. “The fear that swept gay men at the height of the McCarthy Era cannot be underestimated. It exploited a prevailing fear in American culture at large of effeminate men and instilled it further, even among gay men. Not only would men, gay and straight, not want to appear effeminate lest someone think they were homosexual, but the profusely masculine pose that straight men adopted in the 1950s had a profound effect on gay men that lasted for generations. Homosexuals are, after all, attracted to men, and if men in a given culture are assuming an even more masculine appearance than previously, thus redefining once again what it means to be a man, homosexuals will perhaps by default become more attracted to that more masculine appearance … The effeminate homosexual continued to become at best someone to avoid, even among a great many gay men themselves.”
    Signorile, Michelangelo. Life Outside: The Signorile Report on Gay Men: Sex, Drugs, Muscles, and the Passages of Life. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997, pp. 46-47 quoted in Bunyan, Marcus. Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male. Melbourne: RMIT University, 2000. Femi-nancy Press chapter, p. 1.
  5. Anonymous. “Otto Arco and Adrian Deraiz.” Nd in Berry, Mark. Physical Improvement. Vol. II. Philadelphia: Milo Publishing Company, 1930, p. 39.
  6. This sculpture tightly adheres to the many criteria of the Nazi aesthetic and therefore contains the visual and thematic aspects of the Nazi aesthetic. The sculpture depicts two men in front, both in an athletic pose. This sculpture depicts the Nazi ideals of masculinity and virility. It does this by depicting an extremely athletic, in-shape fighter. The static image idolized the idealized athletic form as a goal for the rest of the nation. The figure furthers the Nazi state’s anti-Bolshevist stance as it depicts a Nazi ideal of a strong and vigorous German man, in contrast to the degraded figures often portrayed in Bolshevik art, suffering as victims of class oppression.
    Anonymous. “The Nazi Aesthetic: A Vehicle of Nazi Values,” on the Grappling with the Nazi Past website May 8, 2019 [Online] Cited 10/09/2022
  7. Leddick, David. Naked Men: Pioneering Male Nudes 1935-1955. New York: Universe Publishing, 1997, p. 21.
  8. Kinsey Institute and Crump, James. George Platt Lynes: Photographs From the Kinsey Institute. Boston: Bullfinch Press, 1993, Plate 78.
  9. Whole series of studio shots of male butt and arsehole in different positions. Quite explicit. Some close-up, others full body shots with legs in the air. Not his best work but interesting for its era. Very sexually anal or anally sexual! As in GPL’s work, very about form as well. In one photograph a guy spreads his cheeks while bending over from the waist, in another photograph he spreads his cheeks while standing slightly bent forward. These are the most explicit of GPL’s images in the Collection that I saw, though perhaps not the most successful or interesting photographically. 8″ x 10″ contact print.
    See Plate 78 in Kinsey Institute and Crump, James. George Platt Lynes: Photographs From the Kinsey Institute. Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1993, for an image from this series.
  10. Der Kries. No. 1. Zurich: No Publisher, January, 1952. Homosexual magazine. Typical photographs of the era in this magazine. No frontal nudity even up to the later 1965 editions. Lithe young men, drawings and articles, including one on the Kinsey Report in the 1952 first edition (pp. 6-7). Some of the photographs in Der Kries of young European men are similar to German naturist movement photographs (Cat. No. 52423 – Oct, Nov, Dec 1949. Cat. No. 52452 – May, June 1949 showing 5 nude boys outdoors throwing medicine ball in the air with their arms upraised). Also some photographs are similar to von Gloeden’s Italian peasants (Cat. No. 52424 – July 1952. Cat. No. 52425 – August 1960. Cat. No. 52426 – May, Oct 1956: all 4 photographs). The 1949 photographs are possibly taken from earlier German magazines anyway? Discus, javelin, archer, and shot putter images. Mainly nudes. George Platt Lynes contributed to the magazine under the pseudonym Roberto Rolf.
  11. Image No. 52006. Bruce of Los Angeles. Kinsey Institute acquired 1950. Annotation: Tom Matthews, 24 years old. Older man, dark hair. Big pecs, arms, tanned, hairy arms and chest, looking down and away from camera. Nude, limp cut dick. Sitting on a pedestal which is on a raffia mat. Metal chain wrapped around both wrists which are crossed. Lighting seems to be from 2 sources – high right and mid-left. Unusual in that this physique photograph shows an older, hairy man who is nude.
  12. Bérubé, Allan. Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two. New York: The Free Press, 1990, pp. 272-273.
  13. Dupain, Max. Max Dupain’s Australia. Ringwood, Victoria: Viking/Penguin Books Australia, 1986, p. 157.
  14. Domenique (ed.,). Art in Physique Photography Vol. 1. (illus. by David Angelo, designed and produced by Lon of New York in London). Worcester Park, England: Man’s World Publishing Company Ltd., 195?
  15. Album 1501: A Study of Sexual Activity Between Males. Los Angeles: Greyhuff Publishing, 1970.
    Bodies in this magazine are smooth, young toned men, much as in the early photographs of George Platt Lynes. The perform both oral and anal sex on each other in a lounge room lit by strong lights (shadows on walls). Black and white photographs, well shot, magazine is about 5″ wide and 10″ high, well laid out and printed. The magazine is a thin volume and features just the two models in one sex scene of them undressing each other and then having sex. One man wears a Pepsi-Cola T-shirt at first and he also has tattoos one of which says ‘Cheri’. The photographs almost have a private feel to them.
    This is the earliest commercial gay pornography magazine that I have seen that features m2m anal and oral sex and comes after the American Supreme Court ruled on obscenity laws in the late 1960s. Note the progression from physique magazines and models in posing pouches in 1966-1968, then to full erection and stories of anal penetration in Action Line in 1969, to full on photographs of gay sex in this magazine in 1970. Bodies are all smooth, quite solid, toned natural physiques, not as ‘built’ as in earlier physique magazines, but still featuring younger smooth men and not older heavier set men. In their introduction the publishers disclaim any agreement with the content of the magazine and are only publishing it for the freedom of everybody to study the material in the privacy of their own homes. In other words m2m sex is a natural phenomenon and the publication is educational. This was a common ploy in early nudist and pornographic publications to justify the content – to claim that the material was for private educational purposes only.
    Marcus Bunyan. “Research Notes on Physique Magazines and Early Gay Pornography Magazines of the 1960s from the Collection at the One Institute / International Gay and Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California, 28/08/1999,” in Marcus Bunyan. Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male. RMIT University, Melbourne, 2001.
  16. Anonymous quotation in Colt Studios. Olympus from Colt Studios Vol. 1. No 2. Hollywood, California: Colt Studios, 1973, p. 42.
  17. During my research at The One Institute in Los Angeles I investigated the type of body images that appeared in the transitional phase from physique magazines of the mid-late 1960s into the early gay pornography magazines of 1969-1970 in America which occurred after the Supreme Court ruling on obscenity. I wanted to find whether there had been a crossover, a continuation of the muscular mesomorphic body image that was a favourite of the physique photographers into the early pornography magazines. From the evidence of the images in the magazines I would have to say that there was a limited crossover of the bigger muscular bodies but most bodies that appeared in the early gay porn mags were of the youthful, smooth, muscular ephebe-type body image.
    Most of the men featured in the early gay pornography magazines and films have bodies that appear to be quite ‘natural’ in their form. Models are mostly young, smooth, quite solid with toned physiques, not as ‘built’ as in the earlier physique magazines but still well put together. Examining the magazines at the One Institute I found that the bodies of older muscular / hairy men were not well represented. Perhaps this was due to the unavailability of the bigger and older bodybuilders to participate in such activity? In the male bodies of the c. late-1970s Super 8 mm pornography films we can observe the desirable image of the smooth youthful ephebe being presented for our erotic pleasure.
    Marcus Bunyan. “Gay Male Pornography,” in the ‘In-Press’ chapter in Marcus Bunyan. Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male. RMIT University, Melbourne, 2001.
  18. Schneider, Norbert. The Art of the Portrait. Koln: Benedikt Taschen, 1994, p. 67.
  19. Gott, Ted. “Agony Down Under: Australian Artists Addressing AIDS,” in Gott, Ted. (ed.,). Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS. Melbourne: Thames and Hudson/NGA (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra), 1994, p. 4.
  20. Winn, Albert J. quoted in Grover, Jan. “OI: Opportunistic Identification, Open Identification in PWA Portraiture,” in Gott, Ted. (ed.,). Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS. Melbourne: Thames and Hudson/NGA (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra), 1994, p. 223.

 

 

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20
Jan
14

Exhibition: ‘Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland’ at The Museum Of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA)

Exhibition dates: 2nd November 2013 – 26th January 2014
MOCA Pacific Design Center

*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART WORK OF MALE NUDITY AND EROTIC IMAGES OF GAY MALE SEX – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

 

 

Bob Mizer. 'Physique Pictorial Volume 16 Number 4, February 1968' 1968

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Physique Pictorial Volume 16 Number 4, February 1968
1968
Publication
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

 

What a fantastic pairing in this exhibition and in their relationship in real life. We must remember that Tom of Finland was a ground-breaking artist, one of the very first to picture masculine gay men, “robbing straight homophobic culture of its most virile and masculine archetypes (bikers, hoodlums, lumberjacks, cops, cowboys and sailors) and recasting them – through deft skill and fantastic imagination – as unapologetic, self-aware and boastfully proud enthusiasts of gay sex.”

He would have only just been in his twenties when he started drawing men in the early 1940s, inspired by the soldiers and uniforms he saw around him from the Second World War. With no outward gay culture in Finland, let alone in America until the late 1960s, just imagine being an artist producing this kind of erotic imagery at that time. To go on to be the seminal figure in the creation of gay leather culture… what an impact this artist had on gay and popular culture. Of course, as tastes were liberalised in the era of free love, Stonewall and after, the muscles of his hunks became bigger, the size of their endowments larger and the actions portrayed became more open and transparent (as can be seen from Untitled (From Beach Boy 2 story), 1971, below).

During my PhD research I visited the One Institute/International Gay and Lesbian Archives Collection, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, to investigate the cross-over between physique magazines and early gay pornography magazines of the 1960s to early 1970s. I was interested to see whether the muscular mesomorphic bodies of the physique magazines crossed straight over into the first gay pornography magazines. To my surprise, the answer was that they did not.

After the American Supreme Court ruled on obscenity laws in the late 1960s, the first gay pornography magazines started appearing. The earliest gay porn magazine in the One Institute / IGLA collection, Action Line. No.1. San Francisco: Mark Vaughn Associates. 1969, features mostly smooth but natural bodies, not as built as in physique magazines, with nude young men with full erections lying next too each other touching. There is no sex, no sucking or fucking. Only a year later, in 1970, the story is different. In Album 1501: A Study of Sexual Activity Between Males. Los Angeles: Greyhuff Publishing, 1970 their is sexual intercourse pictured between men in an openly available publication for the first time.

Bodies in this magazine are smooth, young toned men, much as in the early photographs of George Platt Lynes (such as those of Charles ‘Tex’ Smutney, Charles ‘Buddy’ Stanley, and Bradbury Ball). They are also similar to the bodies in the photographs that Lynes submitted to the Zurich published homosexual magazine Der Kries after he found out that he had cancer, during the last years of his life (under the pseudonym Roberto Rolf late 1940s – early 1950s). The participants in Album 1501 perform sex on each other in a lounge room lit by strong lights (shadows on walls). The black and white photographs, well shot, feature in a magazine that is about 5″ wide and 10″ high, well laid out and printed. The magazine is a thin volume and features just the two models in one sex scene of them undressing each other and then having sex. One man wears a Pepsi-Cola T-shirt at first and he also has tattoos one of which says ‘Cheri’. The photographs almost have a private feel to them.

In their introduction the publishers disclaim any agreement with the content of the magazine and are only publishing it for the freedom of everybody to study the material in the privacy of their own homes. In other words male to male sex is a natural phenomenon and the publication is educational. This was a common ploy in early nudist and pornographic publications (along with classical themes) that was used to justify the content – to claim that the material was for private educational purposes only:

.
Introduction.

“Publishers of material dealing frankly with sexual activity have suffered greatly in the past because of society’s anxiety over the existence and propagation of such material. But the real issue is why should such material dealing with sexual activity be any less valid or acceptable than material dealing with other facets of human behaviour? …
This book was produced so that all interested adults may have an opportunity to acquire it for their own private interests in matters relating to sex …
Our publication of this book is not to be construed that we agree with, condone or encourage any of the behaviour depicted herein. However, sexual activity between males is a fact of life and interested adults should not be denied an opportunity to study this, or any other, facet of human behaviour.”

.
The Publishers.

 

It is interesting to note the progression from physique magazines and models in posing pouches in 1966-68 (such as the photographs of Bob Mizer featured in this posting), then to full erection and stories of anal penetration in Action Line in 1969, to full on photographs of gay sex in this magazine in 1970. Bodies are all smooth, quite solid, toned natural physiques, not as ‘built’ as in earlier physique magazines, but still featuring younger smooth men and not older heavier set men. It was not until the development of the clone, leatherman and magazines such a Colt from Colt Studios that Tom of Finland’s muscular mesomorphic leatherman took hold in the popular gay imagination.

Even in the mid 1970’s companies such as Colt Studios, which has built a reputation for photographing hunky, very well built masculine men, used classical themes in their photography of muscular young men. Most of the early Colt magazines have photographs of naked young men that are accompanied by photographs and illustrations based on classical themes. In their early magazines quite a large proportion of the bodies were hirsute or had moustaches as was popular with the ‘clone’ image at the time. Later Colt models of the early 1980’s tend towards the buff, tanned, stereotypical muscular mesomorph in even greater numbers. Sometimes sexual acts are portrayed in Colt magazines but mainly they are not. It is the “look” of the body and the face that the viewers desiring gaze is directed towards – not the sexual act itself.

Photographers such as Bob Mizer from Athletic Model Guild produced more openly homoerotic images. In his work from the 1970’s full erections are not prevalent but semi-erect penises do feature, as do revealing “moon” shots from the rear focusing on the arsehole as a site for male libidinal desires. A less closeted, more open expression of homosexual desire can be seen in the photographs of the male body in the 1970’s.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to The Museum Of Contemporary Art (MOCA) for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' 1962

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled
1962
Graphite on paper
12.00″ x 9.50″
ToFF Cat. #62.27, Collection of Volker Morlock
© 1962 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Bob Mizer. 'Physique Pictorial Volume 11 Number 4, May 1962' 1962

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Physique Pictorial Volume 11 Number 4, May 1962
1962
Publication
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Bob Mizer. 'Physique Pictorial Volume 7 Number 1, 1957' 1957

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Physique Pictorial Volume 7 Number 1, 1957
1957
Publication
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Bob Mizer. 'Physique Pictorial Volume 10 Number 4, April 1961' 1961

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Physique Pictorial Volume 10 Number 4, April 1961
1961
Publication
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' (1 of 4 from 'Circus Life' series) 1961

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled (1 of 4 from Circus Life series)
1961
Graphite on paper
12.25″ x 9.75″
Bob Mizer/AMG Collection, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #61.11
© 1961 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Bob Mizer. 'Jim Horn, Los Angeles' c. 1966

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Jim Horn, Los Angeles
c. 1966
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Bob Mizer. 'Untitled [Barry Maurer, Hand on Gun], Los Angeles' c. 1961

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Untitled [Barry Maurer, Hand on Gun], Los Angeles
c. 1961
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Bob Mizer. 'Untitled [Larry Lamb, with Tumbleweed], Los Angeles' c. 1959

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Untitled [Larry Lamb, with Tumbleweed], Los Angeles
c. 1959
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' 1968

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled
1968
Graphite on paper
12.94″ x 9.38″
ToFF Cat. #68.06, Collection of Volker Morlock
© 1968 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Youthful Innocence' 1969

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Youthful Innocence
1969
The New Biker Stud – Bob Mizer title
Graphite on paper
11.75″ x 8.50″
ToFF Cat. #69.02, Collection of Volker Morlock
© 1969 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' (No.1 from 'Cyclist and the Farm Boy' series) 1973

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled (No.1 from Cyclist and the Farm Boy series)
1973
Graphite on paper
11″ x 8″
Bob Mizer/AMG Collection, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #73.10
© 1973 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Bob Mizer. 'Untitled [Ray Hornsby, Motorcycle], Los Angeles' c. 1957

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Untitled [Ray Hornsby, Motorcycle], Los Angeles
c. 1957
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

 

“To my mind, there is no clearer representation of Mizer’s almost manic attempts to condense the joyful, celebratory chaos of his daily photo shoots down to their most selectively stupendous moments than his catalogue boards.” ~ artist and exhibition co-curator Richard Hawkins

 

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), is proud to present Bob Mizer and Tom of the Finland, the first American museum exhibition devoted to the art of Bob Mizer (1922-1992) and Touko Laaksonen, aka “Tom of Finland” (1920-1991), two of the most significant figures of twentieth century erotic art and forefathers of an emergent post-war gay culture. The exhibition features a selection of Tom of Finland’s masterful drawings and collages, alongside Mizer’s rarely seen photo-collage “catalogue boards” and films, as well as a comprehensive collection of his groundbreaking magazine Physique Pictorial, where drawings by Tom were first published in 1957. Organised by MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson and guest co-curator Richard Hawkins, the exhibition is presented with the full collaboration of the Bob Mizer Foundation, El Cerrito, and the Tom of Finland Foundation, Los Angeles.

Tom of Finland is the creator of some of the most iconic and readily recognisable imagery of post-war gay culture. He produced thousands of images beginning in the 1940s, robbing straight homophobic culture of its most virile and masculine archetypes (bikers, hoodlums, lumberjacks, cops, cowboys and sailors) and recasting them – through deft skill and fantastic imagination – as unapologetic, self-aware and boastfully proud enthusiasts of gay sex. His most innovative achievement though, worked out in fastidious renderings of gear, props, settings and power relations inherent therein, was to create the depictions that would eventually become the foundation of an emerging gay leather culture. Tom imagined the leather scene by drawing it; real men were inspired by it … and suited themselves up.

Bob Mizer began photographing as early as 1942 but, unlike many of his contemporaries in the subculture of illicit physique nudes, Mizer took the Hollywood star-system approach and founded the Athletic Model Guild in 1945, a film and photo studio specialising in handsome natural-bodied (as opposed to exclusively musclebound, the norm of the day) boy-next-door talent. In his myriad satirical prison dramas, sci-fi flix, domesticated bachelor scenarios and elegantly captivating studio sessions, Mizer photographed and filmed over 10,000 models at a rough estimate of 60 photos a day, seven days a week for almost 50 years. Mizer always presented a fresh-faced and free, unashamed and gregarious, totally natural and light-hearted approach to male nudity and intimate physical contact between men. For these groundbreaking perspectives in eroticised representation alone, Mizer ranks with Alfred Kinsey at the forefront of the sexual revolution.

Though Laaksonen did not move to Los Angeles until the 1970s, he had long known of Mizer and the photographer’s work through Physique Pictorial, the house publication and sales tool for Athletic Model Guild. It was to this magazine that the artist first sent his drawings and it was Mizer, finding the artworks remarkable and seeking to promote them on the magazine’s cover, but finding the artist’s Finnish name too difficult for his clientele, who is responsible for the now famous “Tom of Finland” pseudonym.

By the time the gay liberation movement swept through the United States in the late 1960s, both Tom of Finland and Bob Mizer were already well-known and widely celebrated as veritable pioneers of gay art. Decades before Stonewall and the raid on the Black Cat these evocative and lusty representations of masculine desire and joyful, eager sex between men proliferated and were disseminated worldwide at a time when the closet was still very much the norm – there was no such thing as a gay community. If these artists were not ahead of their time, they might just have foreseen and even invented a time.

Spanning five decades, the exhibition seeks a wider appreciation for Tom of Finland and Bob Mizer’s work, considering their aesthetic influence on generations of artists, both gay and straight, among them, Kenneth Anger, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, David Hockney, G.B. Jones, Mike Kelley, Robert Mapplethorpe, Henrik Olesen, Jack Pierson, John Waters, and Andy Warhol. The exhibition also acknowledges the profound cultural and social impact both artists have made, especially in providing open, powerful imagery for a community of desires at a time when it was still very much criminal. Presenting the broader historical context and key aspects of their shared interests and working relationship, as well as more in-depth solo rooms dedicated to each artist, the exhibition establishes the art historical importance of the staggering work of these legendary figures.

In addition to approximately 75 finished and preparatory drawings by Tom of Finland spanning 1947-1991, the exhibition includes a selection of Tom’s never before exhibited scrapbook collages, and examples of his serialised graphic novels, including the legendary leatherman Kake, as well as a selection of Mizer’s “catalogue boards,” AMG films, and a complete set of Physique Pictorial magazine. An accompanying publication includes texts by the exhibition co-curators and a selection of images.

Press release from the MOCA website

 

Bob Mizer. 'Untitled [Ray Hornsby, with Skull Staff], Los Angeles' c. 1957

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Untitled [Ray Hornsby, with Skull Staff], Los Angeles
c. 1957
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Bob Mizer. 'Untitled [Ernie Rabb, Pointed Pistol], Los Angeles' c. 1957

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Untitled [Ernie Rabb, Pointed Pistol], Los Angeles
c. 1957
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' (From 'Beach Boy 1' story) 1971

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled (From Beach Boy 1 story)
1971
Pen and ink, gouache on paper
8.25″ x 5.75″
COQ International Collection, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #71.24
© 1971 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' (From 'Jungle Seafood' story) 1972

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled (From Jungle Seafood story)
1972
Pen and ink, gouache on paper
8.63″ x 6.94″
Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #72.41
© 1972 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Bob Mizer. 'Untitled [Larry Lamb, Profile with Chains], Los Angeles' c. 1959

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Untitled [Larry Lamb, Profile with Chains], Los Angeles
c. 1959
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Bob Mizer. 'Untitled [Dennis Schreffer, Wand Balance], Los Angeles' c. 1957

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Untitled [Dennis Schreffer, Wand Balance], Los Angeles
c. 1957
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Bob Mizer. 'Untitled [Dennis Schreffer with Portrait], Los Angeles' c. 1957

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Untitled [Dennis Schreffer with Portrait], Los Angeles
c. 1957
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' (From 'Beach Boy 2' story) 1971

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled (From Beach Boy 2 story)
1971
Pen and ink, gouache on paper
8.25″ x 5.25″
Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #71.45
© 1971 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' (From 'Beach Boy 2' story) 197

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled (From Beach Boy 2 story)
1971
Pen and ink, gouache on paper
8.25″ x 5.25″
Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #71.58
© 1971 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

Bob Mizer. 'Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, David Elliott. [Double-sided; This side Page 1 of SW series]' c. 1965

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, David Elliott. [Double-sided; This side Page 1 of SW series]
c. 1965
Photographs mounted to matboard and mixed media
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Proposed purchase with funds provided by the Photography Committee
The Bob Mizer Foundation & INVISIBLE-EXPORTS, New York

 

Bob Mizer. 'Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, David Elliott. [Double-sided; This side Page 2 of SW series]' c. 1965

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, David Elliott. [Double-sided; This side Page 2 of SW series]
c. 1965
Photographs mounted to matboard and mixed media
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Proposed purchase with funds provided by the Photography Committee
The Bob Mizer Foundation & INVISIBLE-EXPORTS, New York

 

Bob Mizer. 'Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, Ernie Rabb. [Double-sided; This side Page 57 of XT series]' c. 1957

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, Ernie Rabb. [Double-sided; This side Page 57 of XT series]
c. 1957
Photographs mounted to matboard and mixed media
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Proposed purchase with funds provided by the Photography Committee
The Bob Mizer Foundation & INVISIBLE-EXPORTS, New York

 

Bob Mizer. 'Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, Ernie Rabb. [Double-sided; This side Page 58 of XT series]' c. 1957

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Athletic Model Guild Catalog Board, Ernie Rabb. [Double-sided; This side Page 58 of XT series]
c. 1957
Photographs mounted to matboard and mixed media
Printed with permission of Bob Mizer Foundation, Inc .
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Proposed purchase with funds provided by the Photography Committee
The Bob Mizer Foundation & INVISIBLE-EXPORTS, New York

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' (From 'Beach Boy 2' story) 1971

 

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled (From Beach Boy 2 story)
1971
Pen and ink, gouache on paper
8.25″ x 5.25″
Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #71.61
© 1971 Tom of Finland Foundation

 

 

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19
Jan
13

Exhibition: ‘Bob Mizer: ARTIFACTS’ at Invisible-Exports, New York / Research into photographs of men at the Kinsey Institute, Bloomington, Indiana 1999

Exhibition dates: 14th December 2012 – 27th January 27 2013

 

Bob Mizer. 'Rick Gordon, rooftop studio, Los Angeles' 1972

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Rick Gordon, rooftop studio, Los Angeles
1972
Vintage color transparency
Cibachrome print
10.5 x 10.5 inches
Edition of 5
Printed in 2012

 

 

** Warning this posting contains male nudity – oh no! **

There are some appealing but relatively tame photographs from one of the doyens of male physique photography from the 1950s-1970s in this posting. More interesting to me are the photographs that never get published or shown in a gallery. While visiting The Kinsey Institute in Bloomington, Indiana as part of my PhD research Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male in 2001 I made a list of all the physique photographers present in their collection, as well as annotated notes on the photographs of Baron von Gloeden, George Platt Lynes, male homosexual catalogue photographs, male homosexual photographs and male2male sex photographs. Unfortunately almost nothing of this amazing collection of photographs at The Kinsey has ever been published, mainly I suspect due to the prudish nature of American society.

The physique photographers include artists such as Russ Warner, Al Urban, Lon of New York (who began their careers in the late 1930’s), Bob Mizer (started Athletic Model Guild (AMG) in 1945 and later, on his own, Physique Pictorial), Charles Renslow (started Kris studio in 1954), Bruce of Los Angeles, Douglas: Detroit, Dick Falcon, Melan, Karl Eller and Physique Culture and Early Homosexual Magazines.

Bob Mizer set up AMG in 1945 to photograph male bodybuilders and it is now the oldest male model photography studio in the United States of America. All models in the photographs that I studied were well built, smooth, toned. Lots of outdoor shots! Models are usually quite young (18-22 approx.) Tiny waists and v shaped. For example Image No. 51820. 3 studio portraits of one smooth boy featuring twisted back, arms and torso to great effect. Total V shape. Lots of erotic wrestling photographs from AMG as well.

Although not showing nudes in publications such as Physique Pictorial, private photographs by Bob Mizer heavily feature nudity. Wide use made of projected backdrops – abstracts, leaves, mountains, ships, classical Roman ruins. 4″ x 5″ prints are much better than the 8″ x 10″ enlargements. The Annotations on back of both size images tell of the models jobs and sexual orientation and what they will or will not do sexually if known. It is interesting to note that these annotations are usually the only thing that places the physical bodies in a social context. The studio shots really have no context while the outdoor shots have slightly more context. The annotations helps define the social and sexual structures within which the models circulated.

What surprised me the most in The Kinsey Institute collection were the black and white and colour photographs of the beefcake models with erect penis and having full on male2male sex out in the open. These photographs are never seen, never published or exhibited but these prurient texts provide an important touchstone when trying to understand the more sexually and aesthetically passive work. It is a pity that the viewer cannot make an informed decision on the development of an artist’s oeuvre without im/morality raising its ugly head.

PLEASE SEE THE NOTES FROM MY RESEARCH AT THE KINSEY INSTITUTE BELOW IN THE POSTING.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Invisible Exports for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting.

 

 

Bob Mizer. 'John Benninghoff' 1991

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
John Benninghoff
1991
Vintage color transparency
Cibachrome print
7 x 10.5 inches
Edition of 5
Printed 2012

 

Bob Mizer. 'Unknown, Los Angeles' 1972

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Unknown, Los Angeles
1972
Vintage color transparency
Cibachrome print
10.5 x 10.5 inches
Edition of 5
Printed in 2012

 

Bob Mizer. Production still from "Boy Factory", 1969

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Production still from “Boy Factory”
1969
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
16 x 20 inches
Edition of 3
Printed in 2012

 

 

Most widely known as a photographer-filmmaker, independent publisher, and midcentury iconoclast, Bob Mizer (1922-1992) was an erotic auteur and a lyrical chronicler of the pre-Stonewall demimonde. In his meticulously staged idiosyncratic private work, Mizer revealed himself as a conscientious artist of intimacy and depth, a visionary stylist of the male-on-male gaze as it was refracted through a culture suffused with masculine iconography, which yet stymied and redirected the vectors of desire. The objects and photographs here show Mizer to be the progenitor of a new kind of devotional work that honours the kaleidoscopic typology of desire in the final stages of the underground era, while approaching it simultaneously as an improvised and mesmerising ethnography.

Mizer founded the Athletic Model Guild studio in 1945 when American censorship laws permitted women, but not men, to be photographed partially nude, so long as the result was “artistic” in nature. In 1947 he was wrongly accused of having sex with a minor and subsequently served a year-long prison sentence at a desert work camp in Saugus, California. But his career was catapulted into infamy in 1954 when he was convicted of the unlawful distribution of obscene material through the US mail. The material in question was a series of black and white photographs, taken by Mizer, of young bodybuilders wearing what were known as posing straps – a precursor to the G-string.

Upon his release from prison, he continued working undeterred, founding the groundbreaking magazine Physique Pictorial in 1951, which also debuted the work of artists such as Tom of Finland, Quaintance and many others. Models included future Andy Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro, actors Glenn Corbett, Alan Ladd, Susan Hayward, Victor Mature, and actor-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Throughout his long career he produced a dizzying array of intimate and idiosyncratic imagery, some flattened of explicit content but bathed nevertheless in an unmistakable erotic glow – tributes to the varieties of desire. Although Mizer’s studio was successful, his influence on artists ranging from David Hockney (who moved from England to California in part to seek out Mizer), Robert Mapplethorpe, Francis Bacon, Jack Smith, Andy Warhol and many others is only now beginning to be more widely appreciated.

The works collected in Bob Mizer: ARTIFACTS include a rare selection of staged tableux, images of California subcultures and an intimate collection of objects from various private sessions – preserved by Mizer along with photographs, films, videos and an ever-expanding catalog of props which over time evolved into a haphazard private museum and a natural history of American desire.

Press release from the Invisible-Exports website

 

Bob Mizer. 'Jim Carroll, Los Angeles' c. 1951

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Jim Carroll, Los Angeles
c. 1951
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
10.5 x 8.4 inches
Edition of 5
Printed in 2012

 

Bob Mizer. 'Bill Holland, Los Angeles' c. 1951

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Bill Holland, Los Angeles
c. 1951
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
10.5 x 8.4 inches
Edition of 5
Printed in 2012

 

Bob Mizer. 'Beau Rouge, Los Angeles' c. 1954

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Beau Rouge, Los Angeles
c. 1954
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
10.5 x 8.4 inches
Edition of 5
Printed in 2012

 

 

Research at the Kinsey Institute, Bloomington, Indiana

16/08/1999 – 19/08/1999

This research was undertaken as part of my Phd research Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male at RMIT University, Melbourne.

  • Male homosexual catalogue photographs from the Collection at The Kinsey Institute
  • George Platt Lynes photographs from the Collection at The Kinsey Institute
  • M2M sex photographs from the Collection at The Kinsey Institute
  • Notes on physique culture photographs and magazines from the Collection at The Kinsey Institute
  • Baron von Gloeden photographs from the Collection at The Kinsey Institute

 

Male homosexual catalogue photographs from the Collection at The Kinsey Institute

Image No. 543-280. Frontier Club, San Diego, California.
**Mr. America – Plus** Frontier #11. Catalogues and ads, December 1967.

Image No. 543-281. Frontier Club, San Diego, California.
**Mr. America – Plus** Frontier #5. Catalogues and ads, December 1967.

Proof sheet photographs cut up and taped down onto card and the rephotographed. #11 features a solo young man, naked except boots and hat, posing with whip. #5 features natural boys in shorts, shirts, wrestling, one punching the other’s stomach, holding each other just wearing underwear. Really cute, natural bodies and photographs. Some posing by photographer. Lighting obviously just by table lamps or lights, very amateur, but all the more intriguing and interesting for that.

Image No. 2667-9. Anonymous. Nd Acquired 1951.

Image No. 2669 is a duplicate of No. 2667. 8″ x 10″ sheet of proofs 6 side by 6 high, each proof oblong in shape. Originally folded in four and now flattened out.

2 men, possibly 3 (hard to tell from small proofs), in the country by a river/pond, diving, fishing, posing, lifting weights, rocks, rowing boats together, archery, playing tennis, wrestling, running. Sunbaking side by side, one back down, the other stomach down on a rock by the river, great bodies – some of the most beautiful physique photographs, if not THE best in the whole collection. Need to have negatives made and printed! 2 men have great bodies, smooth, built, and great poses and rapport with each other. Strong sunlight. They have painted on posing pouches, so originally they must have been nude photographs. American. Social setting and context is interesting – theirs or a friends country property? (tennis courts, lake, etc., …) enabled the privacy needed to photograph them like this, so from a moneyed social class.

Image No. 2864-5. Anonymous. Nd 1950s? Chicago Police Dept., Acquired 05/1961.

Image No. 2864. 12 models on a 3″ wide x 4″ high page.
Image No. 2865. 4 models on a 2″ wide x 4″ high page.

Rare physique photographs of nude men with erections. Some are shot using double flash or lights in a house (skirting board visible). A couple on an unmade bed and others in a studio setting with nothing behind. Most models are smiling! Same photographer in both proof sheets as curtain behind bed features in both sheets. Also numbered sequentially 1-12 for first sheet, 13-16 for second sheet.

 

George Platt Lynes photographs from the Collection at The Kinsey Institute

It is interesting to note that most of the photographs list the names of the models used but I am unable to print them here due to an agreement between GPL and Dr. Kinsey as to their secrecy. Also most of the photographs have annotations in code on the back of them giving details of age, sexual proclivities of models and what they are prepared to do and where they were found. This information gives a vital social context to GPL’s nude photographs of men and positions them within the moral and ethical framework of the era in which they were made. I hope that one day this information, along with the names of the models, can be made available to the public to give them a greater insight into the development of GPL’s personal aesthetic as well as the development of the visible erotic desire of the male body by and for other men during the 1940s-1950s.

Untitled Nude. 1944.

Photograph of a well built older (about 25?) nude man reclining on a bench with a high back. Lit by one spot on body forming heavy shadows with the backdrop lit to form outline of body against it. Head is tilted back so face not visible, left arm flung out. man is smooth, toned and quite hunky. Hairy legs with one knee in air. This is a very passive pose and the genitalia are hidden in deep shadow as though afraid to be revealed. Despair/sex/anonymity?

See Kinsey Institute and Crump, James. George Platt Lynes: Photographs From the Kinsey Institute. Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1993, Plate 16.

Some earlier nudes especially portrait of Reginald Beane, 1938, have a very Man Ray quality too them. See Kinsey Institute and Crump, James. George Platt Lynes: Photographs From the Kinsey Institute. Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1993, Plate 47.

Untitled Nude. 1953.

Black man lying on a white mattress in a horizontal position, the top of mattress showing creases in the sheet covering it. Photographed from slightly higher than the prone body, horizontal print. This photograph is an exercise in tonal scale and lighting / textures. Beautiful light on body. The image is divided into different planes and spaces.

See Kinsey Institute and Crump, James. George Platt Lynes: Photographs From the Kinsey Institute. Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1993, Plate 57.

Male Nude Hanging. 1940.

Close up of fuller length photograph of 1940 Crucifixion showing agony on face, shaved armpits(!) and pubes, legs, ropes cutting into wrists. Beautiful cool brown / grey tonality to print. Lighting is from two sides as can be seen by the shadows formed on the body and the backdrop. Quite a feminine image I feel, with the heavy eyebrows, very smooth ephebe body and the lean of the torso. Print is more tonal than the reproduction in the book.

See Kinsey Institute and Crump, James. George Platt Lynes: Photographs From the Kinsey Institute. Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1993, Plate 75.

Untitled Nude. 1955.

Tanned older (25?) nude man with hanging big cut dick standing in front of graffiti wall. Head back and eyes closed, not engaging with the camera. Tan line of shorts very visible. Beautiful smooth body, and lovely skin tones in print.

Untitled Nude. 1952.

This photograph has much more life than the reproduction in the book. Every hair on his chest GLOWS. The grey of the print is more intense and the print darker overall. The arm of the left hand side of the print is not so blown out and the hands have more of a feeling of suspension to them.

See Kinsey Institute and Crump, James. George Platt Lynes: Photographs From the Kinsey Institute. Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1993, Plate 41.

Male Nude. 1951.

Paper negative? Smooth, young man lying on his back, breathing in, thin waist, arm behind head, looking straight into camera. Backdrop lit by two spots to outline body. Horizontal print with lots of negative space above body. Those eyes really get you and the tufts of pubic hair really stand out in the original photograph. Outline shape is amazing and the reproduction does not do it justice. Real presence. One of the most moving prints yet. It is a privilege to see it!

See Kinsey Institute and Crump, James. George Platt Lynes: Photographs From the Kinsey Institute. Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1993, Plate 72.

Untitled Nude. 1954.

Young man on left hand side of photograph wearing necklace, ring on right hand, tattoo of rose on right forearm, rocker haircut, looking down and away from camera. Darker figure. Another smooth, youthful male form behind opaque screen has hand reaching for first figure, touching him with left hand. Lighter figure with tattoo on left hand bicep. Print is mid to light grey in its tonality. Very homoerotic.

Untitled Nude. 1952.

Beautiful photograph of a nude young male sitting on a work bench table in a derelict building, 2 windows behind him to either side. His body is very smooth and he has a cut dick. His arms are out behind him on table to support his body which is leaning back. One leg is hanging over edge of table whilst the front leg is raised with knee in the air with the foot resting on the edge of the work bench. The background is lit from the left and the figure is lit from behind and above – great lighting.

Strong use of chiaroscuro and opposite way lighting in later photographs. There are several photographs of men in unmade beds, genitalia showing or face down showing butts off.

Untitled Nude. 1946.

One such photograph shows 2 boys lying in single unmade beds next too each other. The second young man is way out of focus in the background. These are not studio shots any of these. They are much more personal. In this photograph the erect, stiff, nodular end post of the bed is like a metaphor for an erect penis, the opposite side of flaccid one of the young man on the bed nearest the camera. The young man has his one hand on his stomach and the other behind his head, eyes closed, as though he is asleep. Flash or strong lights? Definitely flash.

Untitled Nude. 1953.

Same backdrop but different pose from Plate 61 in Kinsey Institute and Crump, James. George Platt Lynes: Photographs From the Kinsey Institute. Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1993. Here one of the men has his hand under his chin, arm resting on folded knee, looking down at prone body which is face down beside him. Young man face down has cute butt with tan line. Beautiful tonal print, especially skin tones.

Image No. 141. Untitled Nude. 1942. Acquired GPL 1950.

Beautifully toned photograph of a young man kneeling on a mattress with feet hanging over its edge. Backdrop is lit to give outline and form to shoulders/head and fade into darkness above. His balls hang down between his legs and you can see every hair on them. Young man has a cute butt. Photograph is very erotic, very suggestive of anal penetration, and very about form as well.

Image No. 144. Untitled Nude. 1953. Acquired GPL 07/1955.

Strong image always quoted as an example of GPL’s more direct way of photographing the male nude in the last years of his life. Male is solid, imposing, lit from above, heavy set, powerful, massive. Eyes are almost totally in shadow. Later photos have more chiaroscuro possibly, more use of contrasting light (especially down lit or up lit figures) but are they more direct? Yes. Models look straight into camera.

See Plate 59 in Ellenzweig, Allen. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, p. 103.

Image No. 153. Untitled Nude. 1953. Acquired GPL 07/1955.

Really strong image of older man sitting on edge of bench, cropped mid thigh and under mouth. Image shows hairy chest, arms, legs, cut dick and great definition of abdominals. Tan line visible, skin tones in print are just above mid grey. Really good shadows on stomach, under pecs. Lit from above, softbox?

Image No. 186-194. Untitled Nudes. 1951. Acquired GPL 09/1954.

Whole series of studio shots of male butt and arsehole in different positions. Quite explicit. Some close-up, others full body shots with legs in the air. Not his best work but interesting for its era. Very sexually anal or anally sexual! As in GPL’s work, very about form as well. In one photograph a guy spreads his cheeks while bending over from the waist, in another photograph he spreads his cheeks while standing slightly bent forward.

These are the most explicit of GPL’s images in the collection that I saw, though perhaps not the most successful or interesting photographically. 8″ x 10″ contact print.

See Kinsey Institute and Crump, James. George Platt Lynes: Photographs From the Kinsey Institute. Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1993, Plate 78 for an image from this series.

It is interesting to note that George Platt Lynes photographed his own erect penis as early as 1929, although this photograph is not present in The Kinsey Institute Collection and belongs to The Collection of Anatole Pohorilenko (See Crump, James. “Iconography of Desire: George Platt Lynes and Gay Male Visual Culture in Postwar New York,” in Kinsey Institute and Crump, James. George Platt Lynes: Photographs From the Kinsey Institute. Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1993, p.151, Footnote 19).

I also did not see the photograph titled “Erection, c. 1952,” (See Figure 29 on page 255 of the Hard copy of the Project notes; Crump, James. “Iconography of Desire: George Platt Lynes and Gay Male Visual Culture in Postwar New York,” in Kinsey Institute and Crump, James. George Platt Lynes: Photographs From the Kinsey Institute. Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1993, p.153), while at The Kinsey Institute which illustrates this article. This is the most sexually explicit photograph of GPL’s that I have ever seen but there is no accreditation listed for this photograph in a book which is subtitled ‘Photographs From The Kinsey Institute’. Is this photograph part of The Kinsey Collection and if it is, why didn’t I see it when I was researching there?

Image No. 457. Untitled Nude. 1955.

Man on an unmade bed staring into camera. Tattoo of ‘Chuck’ on upper left arm bicep / shoulder. Older man with tan line and cute butt. Behind is a dark, dark background of a bedroom with a Venetian blind over a window, plant just visible in front of it, bookcase in back right of photo, down light from table lamp highlighting books on side table. Printed down background to make it darker? Man stares straight into camera with a penetrating gaze – presence, engagement, defiance! After sex? Before sex? with GPL? Photograph is blurred so slow shutter speed and tungsten lighting. The white highlights of sheet nearest camera are almost blown out by lighting. Very personal and beautiful photograph placing the male body in bedroom available for sex with another male.

See Plate 50 in Ellenzweig, Allen. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, p. 93.

Image No. 481. Untitled Nude. 1941. Acquired GPL 10/05/1950.

Two young men stretched out, intertwined legs and arms, very sensual pose. Horizontal print. Lots of darker negative space above the bodies. Backdrop lit to highlight body outline – usual GPL trademark.

Image No. 482.Untitled Nude. 1941. Acquired GPL 10/05/1950.

2 smooth young men, ephebes, about 19 years old, one cut off at the waist, leaning backwards and resting on others stomach. Both have blond hair and the young man at front has his right hand resting on his chest, eyes closed. Rear figure has his head turned away from the camera.

See Plate 52 in Ellenzweig, Allen. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, p. 95.

One of the best images in the collection. Very evangelical and homoerotic at the same time.

Image No. 483. ‘Charles ‘Tex’ Smutney, Charles ‘Buddy’ Stanley and Bradbury Ball’. 1941. Acquired GPL 10/05/1950.

Studio shot of 3 smooth, nude young men in various positions on an unmade mattress bed sitting on GPL’s studio floor. All three young men are intertwined with a white sheet covering some of the bodies and faces. Dark chair in background has clothes lying on it. Lit from above left. Skin tones in print are just above mid grey. According to Leddick, David. Naked Men: Pioneering Male Nudes 1935-1955. New York: Universe Publishing, 1997, p. 21, the names of the models are as above and come from a series of 30 photographs of three boys undressing and lying on a bed together. Image No. 483 and 484 come from the same series as the reproduced photograph.

Image No. 484. ‘Charles ‘Tex’ Smutney, Charles ‘Buddy’ Stanley and Bradbury Ball’. 1941. Acquired GPL 10/05/1950.

Different pose from above. No genitalia visible. No touching each other. Darker print than above. Beautiful tone of print.

 

M2M sex photographs from the Collection at The Kinsey Institute

Image No. 54106-7. M. Koch – O. Reith. ‘Der Act’. Acquired 1946.

Early (1880-1910?) male nude photographs used as models for other artists. 2 older males together supporting the pediment of a Roman column, themselves taking the place of the column. In Image No. 54107 they have their arms around each other. Just natural male bodies, smooth, moustaches, uncut.

Image No. 54112. Anonymous photographer. Nd Acquired Chicago Police Dept. 05/1961.

VERY RARE location shot of male nudes at baths(?) White nude male laying down, with black man doing handstand on his shins, back to the viewer. In the background is another nude black man, partially visible. Hanging up on pegs behind him are 5 singlets and 1 pair of underwear. Small photograph 2” wide by 4” high. Significant in that the photograph appears to be at the baths, shows interracial nudity and M/M contact.

One of the most significant photographs in the whole collection in my opinion. The sexologists of the era did not collect photographs of gay men and their bodies in social contexts, preferring instead to concentrate on photographs of M/M bodies engaged in sexual acts or physique photographs taken in the studio which generally do not have any context in relationship to the outside world. I know they did not have much of a choice in the material offered to them but surely there must have been photographs of gay men in the park, at the beach lying next too each other. In contemporary research we would embed such photographs within broader situational contexts and theoretical analyses.

Image No. 543-280. Frontier Club, San Diego, California.
**Mr. America – Plus** Frontier #11. Catalogues and ads, December 1967.

Image No. 543-281. Frontier Club, San Diego, California.
**Mr. America – Plus** Frontier #5. Catalogues and ads, December 1967.

Proof sheet photographs cut up and taped down onto card and the rephotographed. #11 features a solo young man, naked except boots and hat, posing with whip. #5 features natural boys in shorts, shirts, wrestling, one punching the other’s stomach, holding each other just wearing underwear. Really cute, natural bodies and photographs. Some posing by photographer. Lighting obviously just by table lamps or lights, very amateur, but all the more intriguing and interesting for that.

Image No. 55201. Anonymous. Nd Acquired Edina Minneapolis Police Dept., 01/1962.

Small photograph 2″ wide x 3″ high. Interior. Male nude with hips thrust to one side, right leg splayed outwards, smooth, uncut, holding cane in left hand and top hat on his head at a rakish angle with right hand. Backdrop probably a Japanese fabric of bamboo canes. Very effeminate photograph of a young nude man in a bedroom possible (?) – very personal.

Image No. 55202. Anonymous. Nd Acquired Chicago Police Dept., 05/1961.

Nude man in gaiters (1920s-1940s?), uncut, watch on left hand, drinking from small silver cup which hides mouth. Right hand holds half smoked cigarette. Body has no shape about it at all – really strange. In the background is a standard lamp, skirting board and striped wallpaper. Flash or lamp lit. Personal / private photograph.

Image No. 55203. Anonymous. Nd Acquired Chicago Police Dept., 05/1961.

Young man, nude, uncut, flattened against interior wall covered with Arabic scene of horses, men and tigers above skirting board and wooden floor. Possibly 1930s. He has a tattoo on right forearm and the most amazing tan line from wearing shorts and singlet. His body has no shape to it at all, he has thin arms and is about 20-22 years old. Really unusual to see such a tan line, possibly from a bathing suit. With the background, I would say it positions this man socially in the upper classes and is interesting for its social contextualisation of the male body.

Image No. 55259. Anonymous. Nd Acquired Chicago 1940.

Photograph one and a half inches square of male nude approx. 25-28 years old, smoking a cigarette, in slip on shoes, standing in front of what looks like army tents with trestle tables inside them. Body is natural, no real shape, smooth, man is smiling.

Image No. 55260. Anonymous. Nd Acquired Chicago Police Dept., 05/1961. 385971.

Male nude with dark hair, three quarters side profile standing in lounge room. Very Diane Arbus. Table lamp with big shade and 2 tiered side table. Vinyl chair behind. Print on wall is nearly completely hidden, curtain to top right hand side with wood grain wall as well. Beautiful man, serene, calm, relaxed in his own body – ONE OF THE BEST PHOTOGRAPHS. Flash was used as heavy shadow of man outline falls on the wall behind. Body is smooth, hunky but not a bodybuilder. Cut dick. Hands by side. Nice face, smiling, looking at camera.

Really like this photograph as the man is comfortable in showing off his body in front of the camera yet not really posing or puffing himself up. He and his body are aware but relaxed and just so.

Image No. 55042. Anonymous. Nd Acquired O.W. 05/1954.

Small photograph 2″ wide x 3″ high of young nude man sitting in car facing out of the open passenger side door with his trousers down below his knees. Left hand is resting on knee and the right hand is pinned against the seat by the weight of his own body. Uncut dick. Curly dark hair, eyes closed. Car has stick shift left hand drive (American) probably early 1950s. Body is smooth, boyish and young man is about 17-19 years old.

Just before or after sex? Intimacy? Photograph positions the body in an era and specific situation. Was he about to be sucked off? Was he being forced into pulling his pants down and being photographed? I don’t think so from the closed eyes and position of the body within the car. Lover is the photographer?

Image No. 55087. Anonymous. Nd Acquired McG. NYC 1946.

Photograph approx. 7″ wide by 5″ high. Smooth young man, about 18, eyes closed, wavy hair, leaning back on one hand on sandy beach. Right hand leg rests on lower of 2 wooden steps. Right hand rests on knee of right leg. Cut dick. Smiling. Lake in background with 3 sailing boats on it, one with sail up and 2 people in it. Pair of shoes sits on second step.

Beautiful photograph – intimacy, again possibly a lover has taken this photo, and it has some context to it – shoreline and people sailing boats in the background, steps leading to holiday shack? Young man is beautiful, happy and at ease in his surroundings, his company and in his own body.

Image No. 54768-54779. Anonymous. Nd Figure Set 41. 1960s(?)

All photographs 3″ wide x 4″ high. 2 nude men, about 25-30 years old, in bedroom, mirror on front of wardrobe, flowers in vase on dressing table, bed, flower patterned wallpaper, window behind dressing table. One man is hairy and cut, the other smooth and uncut. They are using a measuring tape (in inches) to measure each others necks, arms, chests, waists and calves in this series of photographs. Both men are smiling at each other and at other people off camera and are totally unaffected by the cameras presence in one respect whilst posing for it in another. Flash used. In some of the photographs the smooth man has his hand on the others head (for balance?) No, probably lovers.

Great series of photographs, very natural using built bodies in a bedroom setting (their own?), measuring and showing off the results of their bodybuilding. The images are quite a laugh and they are obviously comfortable and having a good time too! Much less formal than the usual physique photograph and show an intimacy between the two models, plus a context for that intimacy, the bedroom.

Image No. 41601. Anonymous. 1935+-. Acquired 1948.

Annotation: Swedish boy named Gustav(?) Young man in trousers, white shirt, hair parted down middle, holds a Gladstone bag. He is smiling. House in background with women pulling kid along which is blurred in middle distance. Slim, natural body especially arms.

Image No. 41602. Anonymous. 1935+-. Acquired 1948.

Annotation: Took him to baths in Germany. Same young man as above now in a one piece bathing suit, hair wet, slicked back. SLIM, beautiful boy. He is sitting on sand. People lying on beach in background including another boy who is out of focus.

Image No. 41602. Anonymous. 1935+-. Acquired 1948.

Annotation: Met in Navarin Masquerade, 1932. Same young man lying on towel on beach, Gladstone bag behind him. Very smooth young man, very Horst P. Horst model. Wearing a one piece bathing suit pulled down to his waist.

Good set of 3 photographs because it shows this young gay man in a variety of different settings posing for the photographer who he obviously knows from the annotations. Relaxed in his body and his surroundings. Perhaps they are on holiday together?

Image No. 41607/41610. Anonymous. c. 1946. San Francisco. Acquired 1958.

4 guys in various uniforms, table in front of them filled with alcohol. Hands on each others crutches. Second photograph has friends with Navy coats on coming in door. Like stills from a film?

Image No. 41612. ‘Ray Baker’. c. 1946. Acquired 1950.

Annotation: Donny 16-17 years. Bob 25 years. Donny seated, nude, socks on, reading a bit of paper. Bob, standing, hand on Donny’s inner thigh, bent over reading bit of paper as well. Donny is very slim ephebe, beautiful, smooth. Bob is older, hairy chest. Look like a married couple. Very good image.

Image No. 41614. Set of CK. 1950s. Acquired 1953.

2 young men nude in shower, back shot with bums.

Image No. 41615. Set of CK. 1950s.

Acquired 1953. Same young men, frontal shots in shower, very smooth, not built bodies.

Image No. 44224. Anonymous. 1928-1935. Acquired 1961.

2 men sitting on a couch, naked , one with arms crossed looking into camera, smiling, tapestry on wall behind. Older men – 30s? Not young men which is unusual in these muscular mesomorphic photographs. They sit side by side, feet touching, knees touching. Everyday bodies. Good for its openness and body-images.

Image No. 44228. Anonymous. 1935+. Acquired 1947.

Beautiful image. 2 slim young men, one seated, one standing by a pond.

Image No. 44263. Anonymous. 1940s?

Good photograph of 2 older men, hairy, naked, with their arms around each other. No erections. Smiling at camera.

Image No. 44426. Anonymous. n.d. 1950s?

2 young men in bathing trunks, standing, hugging each other on a beach, sea behind. Very good photograph.

Image No. 44526/44532. Anonymous. n.d. 1960s?

2 nude young men, one with arm around others shoulder with the guy on left looking warily at the camera. Natural bodies. Small 2″ square print. Image No. 44532 has them seated, laughing and is a much better photograph, less self conscious.

 

Notes on physique culture photographs and magazines from the Collection at The Kinsey Institute

This section includes my research notes on the physique culture photographs held in the collection at the Kinsey Institute by the photographers listed below. It also includes a description of early homosexual magazines held by the Kinsey Institute.

  1. Bruce of Los Angeles: Project notes pages 343-345
  2. Detroit: Douglas: Project notes page 346
  3. Dick Falcon: Project notes pages 346-347
  4. Melan: Project notes page 347
  5. Bob Mizer/AMG: Project notes page 348
  6. Karl Eller: Project notes pages 348-349
  7. Anonymous: Project notes page 349
  8. Al Urban: Project notes page 350
  9. Bob Mizer/Physique Pictorial: Project notes pages 350-352
  10. Physique culture & early homosexual magazines: Project notes pages 353-354

 

1. Bruce of Los Angeles

Image No. 52001. Bruce of Los Angeles. 1942-1950. Acquired 1950.

Grey backdrop. Young man, nude, about 19, with curly wavy blond hair leaning back with arms behind back. Smooth, toned body with tattoo of owl. Good dick sticking straight out with big fat erection. Young man is looking into camera. Diffused (soft box?) lighting. Doesn’t hide his face to hide his identity – quite open towards camera.

Image No. 52002. Bruce of Los Angeles. 1942-1950. Acquired 1950.

Same young man/backdrop. Radio and curtain to right. Carpet floor. Interior of house so shoot not done in the studio. Dressed in sailors uniform with white cap on. Big hands, crossed and clasping each in front of him. Slight shadow on backdrop.

Image No. 52003. Bruce of Los Angeles. 1942-1950. Acquired 1950.

Same young man/backdrop, nude, reading a newspaper while being sucked off by an older man dressed in white shirt with cufflinks, stripped trousers, black socks. Young man wears only socks and lace up shoes, watch on left arm, bracelet on right arm. Must be tungsten lighting because boys upper body is slightly blurred.

Image No. 52004. Bruce of Los Angeles. 1942-1950. Acquired 1950.

Same young man, backdrop. Frontal pose, with hands behind back. Limp, cut dick. Staring straight into camera. Tattoo of hearts and word ‘mom’ visible of left bicep. Wearing black socks and shoes.

Unusual in that this series shows erections and sexual activity within a specific context and environment (the home) and between an older and younger man.

Also unusual is that these photographs are by a physique photographer, obviously not for publication but for private consumption. These are the only photographs that I found during research at The Kinsey Institute that were explicitly sexual in nature taken by a physique photographer.

Image No. 52005. Bruce of Los Angeles. Acquired 1966.

Young man, dark hair, wearing white posing pouch leaning against tree, one arm behind him holding tree, other raised behind his head. Long grass around. Good arms, chest, stomach development. Must have been nearly midday as the shadow of his head is cast onto neck and upper chest. Eyes are closed and looking down, leaving body open for inspection / adoration without challenge of return gaze. Matt surface to print.

Image No. 52006. Bruce of Los Angeles. Acquired 1950.

Annotation: Tom Matthews, 24 years old. Older man, dark hair. Big pecs, arms, tanned, hairy arms and chest, looking down and away from camera. Nude, limp cut dick. Sitting on a pedestal which is on a raffia mat. Metal chain wrapped around both wrists which are crossed. Lighting seems to be from 2 sources – high right and mid-left. Unusual in that this physique photograph shows an older, hairy man who is nude.

Image No. 52010. Bruce of Los Angeles. 1948.

Numbered 7-12. 6 small (1.5” wide by 2” high) photographs of older (22-25?) muscleman posing outside near a stream with mountains in the background. Mounted on one piece of card. He wears white posing pouch and has BIG arms, chest, back. Real bodybuilder. Tattoo on right bicep.

Image No. 52011. Bruce of Los Angeles. 1948.

Numbered 13-16. Same guy as above now posing with an older blond well built man in 3 photographs mounted on one piece of card. Both posing in bathing trunks using fencing swords as props! Both very big men, arms, chest, lats, etc. …

Image No. 52012. Bruce of Los Angeles. 1948.

Numbered 17-20. Blond man from above series posing alone but still with fencing sword. Again 3 photographs mounted on one piece of card. Same location used for all 3 series. I think these photographs dispelled the myth that I had built up that all of Bruce of Los Angeles photography was studio based.

Image No. 52017-20. Bruce of Los Angeles. 1950.

Annotation: Lewis Tan, 21 years old and Tom Matthews, 24 years old. Taken outdoors, full sunlight / shadow, mountains in background. Wrestling photographs using same raffia mat used in Image No. 52006. Quite erotic. Posed but usually only arms grasping each other. Not full body contact. Developed bodies, masculine, biceps straining, wearing posing pouches.

Image No. 52021-23. Bruce of Los Angeles. 1950?

Annotation: Bert Elliot (stud), 20 years old and Hector De Hoyos, 19 years old. Wrestling, beautiful action shots taken in sand dunes. Both are cute, have dark hair, smooth, tanned bodies and are wearing posing pouches. 8″ x 10″ prints. More full body to body contact in these photographs.

Image No. 52029. Bruce of Los Angeles. 1950.

Annotation: Bulldog Football Team. All Married. 3 naked men with dark hair drying themselves after a shower. Bench with cigar a towel on foreground. Location shot using flash. Naturally hairy bigger bodies. Good photograph a la Diane Arbus mould.

Image No. 52062. Bruce of Los Angeles. 1950.

Annotation: Dick Fowler 17 years old. Nude, slim body, dark hair with cut dick standing on a beach in front of a water fountain. Typical ephebe. Pylons in background. Strange photograph.

 

2. Douglas: Detroit

Image No. 52068. Douglas photographer. Detroit. 1946.

Annotation: Guy, age 28, Persian descent, Ht 5’10”, Wt 165, skilled factory operator. Hair over whole chest and abdomen shaved off. Posing in nude with trees in background. Triumphant pose with clenched fists.

Interesting to note that body hair has been shaved off before photo shoot. Douglas seems to have photographed a lot of Polish models from the images with annotations that I have seen. His photographs seem to hark back to the more stylised 1930s era.

 

3. Dick Falcon

Image No. 52202. Models of Dick Falcon. Columbus, Ohio. NYC 1949.

2 blond (one slightly darker than the other) haired young men with smooth bodies, washboard abs, limp cut dicks. One young man is standing in water, one sitting on a log. 8″ x 10″ print.

Image No. 52206. Models of Dick Falcon. Columbus, Ohio. NYC 1949.

Same young men as in Image No. 52202. Looking away from camera, smooth, washboard abs, limp cut dicks standing in front of a fallen tree. Holding hands – not fully clasped hands but just resting there. Very sensitive photograph. They feel like lovers to me. Small photograph approx. 3″ wide x 4″ high. Very contrasty image. What definition the right hand boy has!! Long and lanky, slim and not big, really toned ephebe.

Image No. 52218. Models of Dick Falcon. Columbus, Ohio. NYC 1949.

Same young men as in Image No. 52202-6. Lighter blond haired young man is balanced on one shoulder of other young man.

Image No. 52229. Models of Dick Falcon. Columbus, Ohio. NYC 1949.

Same young men as in Image No. 52202-6. Lighter blond haired young man balanced on other man who is on all fours. Blond young man smiling with one arm raised in the air, looking at camera. Other boy looking away. Natural bodies, outdoors.

Strange set of photographs reminds me of later Diane Arbus photographs of nudist camp. Most of this photographers studio work harks back to a more stylised classical romantic tradition.

 

4. Melan

Image No. 52276. Melan. Numbered 298-306. NYC 1940.

Proof sheet of young man at waterfall wearing black posing pouch. One of the best bodies I’ve ever seen photographs of. Tall, beautiful face, abs for days, chest not that big, good arms. Great poses outdoors, sensitive – like to see enlargements! One lying on a rock in a crucifix position. One where he is sitting on edge of rock with feet in water – WOW! Not massively big but what a body and the small size of the images makes them all the more intriguing.

Image No. 54643. Anonymous. Nd (possibly Melan). NYC 1946.

5″ x 7″ print off proof sheet above that I said was the most beautiful body that I’d ever seen! Bad print, bottom half of print loosing its tonality, fogging out. Still a magnificent body, really long legs, amazing stomach. By a waterfall, arms outstretched, cut dick. My attribution.

 

5. Bob Mizer / Athletic Model Guild

Bob Mizer set up AMG in 1945 to photograph male bodybuilders and it is now the oldest male model photography studio in the United States of America. All models in the photographs that I studied were well built, smooth, toned. Lots of outdoor shots! Models are usually quite young (18-22 approx.) Tiny waists and v shaped. For example Image No. 51820. 3 studio portraits of one smooth boy featuring twisted back, arms and torso to great effect. Total v shape. Lots of erotic wrestling photographs from AMG as well.

 

6. Karl Eller

Image No. 51844. Karl Eller. 1949.

Annotation: Ex-German. Unusual shot of male lying on stomach in sunlight/shadow with flowers in hair. Small photograph 5″ wide x 3″ high. Screen behind. Quite sensitive. More an art photograph that just a physique study?

Image No. 51846. Karl Eller. 1949.

Same young man, standing, back/side on, head turned so looking into camera. Private reflection/moments. Maybe the photographers lover? Flowers in hair reminder of Fred Holland Day’s Dionysian photographs of ephebes.

Image No. 51848. Karl Eller. 1949.

Same young man looking to left, fontal nude. 2 screens behind, one covered with flowered wallpaper (dark), the other with a leaf design wallpaper (light).

Image No. 51850. Karl Eller. 1949.

Same young man in a reverie. Much more intimate than usual physique photography.

Image No. 51852. Karl Eller. 1949.

Same young man in same positioning as Image No. 51848 but hand to mouth in a pensive mood.

Image No. 51853. Karl Eller. 1949.

Same young man by an open window, nude, uncut dick, sunlight falling on chest, flowers in hair. Head turned away from sun so in shadow. Looking down and not into camera. Must be about 18-20 years old.

This series is using the romantic ideal of the young ephebe. It is much more intimate than the usual physique photography images and I wonder what it is doing in this section of the archive?

Present in The Kinsey Institute collection were a lot more nude photographs than were published. Really, most physique photographers used stock standard poses across the board. An exception to this rule was one of the most interesting series of photographs in the collection. It was taken by anonymous photographer and is described below.

 

7. Anonymous

Image No. 51901-20. Anonymous. n.d. Donated by RES. Acquired 1952-1953.

Fantastic series of studio photographs of several different bodies – some are built bodies and some are not. Black background, beautiful skin tones.

Difference: Close up of different body parts. Butts, chests, arms, cut off heads, arms/legs, just sections … in anticipation of Robert Mapplethorpe’s deconstruction of the body in his nudes. Did he see some of these? Interesting thought! Very art shots of buttocks, torsos. Very tonal like Edward Weston’s nudes or Steiglitz in some of his nudes of Georgia O’Keefe. Image No. 51912 shows close up of veins in arms and hair in armpit. 8″ x 10″ prints.

WOW! for the whole series.

 

8. Al Urban

Much more studio set shots than outdoors. Use of black background or white background. Mainly nudes in The Kinsey Institute collection. There is an occasional black nude (Image No. 53145 from 1949). Most prints are 8″ x 10″ but some, like Image No. 53145, are 3″ x 7″ approx.

Image No. 53247-8. Al Urban. 04/01/1949.

Two dark haired young men, 17 and 18, posing nude, both cut. Both have all over tans, arms on hips, looking at each other, laughing kinda – both bodies ‘ripped’ and toned like you wouldn’t believe! Arms, pecs, 8 pak washboard stomachs, skinny legs. Not big built like a muscular mesomorph or bodybuilder but young men, toned and cut. Amazing definition.

 

9. Bob Mizer / Physique Pictorial

Image No. 52505-9. Bob Mizer. 1954.

Annotation: Used by DA to show intent to exh pvt RCT. Both 4″ x 5″ contacts and 8″ x 10″ enlargements. Series of 12 photographs confiscated by police and used in the 1954 court case by the District Attorney to show intent to exhibit partially erect. What happened in court case? Obviously the charge of exhibiting partially erect did not stick but Mizer lost then won on the obscenity of the male rump: “Not long after the first issues of Physique Pictorial began appearing on the newsstands, the magazine drew the published comment of the columnist Paul Coates of the now defunct L.A. Mirror. Vice officers raided the AMG studio and a case was taken to court which Mizer lost. But the decision of an Appellate Court overturned the earlier ruling and declared that “the male rump is not necessarily obscene.””

Siebernand, P. The Beginnings of Gay Cinema in Los Angeles: The Industry and The Audience. Ann Harbor, Michigan: Xerox Microfilms International, 1975, pp. 44-45.

Although not showing nudes in publications such as Physique Pictorial, private photographs by Bob Mizer heavily feature nudity. Wide use made of projected backdrops – abstracts, leaves, mountains, ships, classical Roman ruins. 4″ x 5″ prints are much better than 8″ x 10″ enlargements. Annotations on back of both size images tell of models jobs and sexual orientation and what they will or will not do sexually if known. Interesting in that these annotations are usually the only thing that places the physical bodies in a social context. Studio shots really have no context. Outdoor shots have slightly more. Commentary helps define social and sexual structures of models.

Image No. 52514. Bob Mizer. 1948.

Annotation: Charles Brant, 20 years old. Tried suicide because wife refused to take him back. 4″ x 5″ contact. Tiled floor (dark), white drapes both sides. Dark fabric backdrop. Ephebe body, smooth, looking right and up and out of frame. Hands held palm upwards and curled fingers, elbows slightly out from sides. Like he’d just cut his arms, or pleading. Did the photographer pose this in an imitation of an attempted suicide? Strong shadow behind – tungsten or flash? Disturbing photograph.

Image No. 52740. Bob Mizer. 07/01/1952.

Great photograph of 3 bodybuilders at a contest. Left hand man seated looking off camera. Middle figure seated looking at figure behind both of them walking out of frame carrying huge trophy. Figure behind smirking at his prize!! To the right and back of photograph is a throne which is really symbolic. 4″ x 5″ contact.

Beautiful. One of the few less posed and more fluid photographs in the collection, shot on location.

Image No. 523-8. Bob Mizer. 28/10/1951.

Later photographs such as this have more overt homosexual overtones. Backdrop of projected Italian style waterfront (steps, canvas umbrellas). 2 smooth men, one older, one younger, posing pouches, one held down by the other wearing a sailors cap. Pinned by wrists. Younger man underneath has head turned towards camera, eyes closed in a submissive attitude, very passive. Man on top looking down at his face. Has power over him.

Image No. 523-9. Bob Mizer. 28/10/1951.

Same men, looking at each other, smiling, sitting side by side. Young man underneath in last photo has his arm around his “buddy,” both wearing sailors hats. At least 2-3 or possibly 4 lighting sources in this shot because of the shadows at different angles – strong and fill lighting.

Image No. 523-10. Bob Mizer. 28/10/1951.

Younger man underneath now face down being hog-tied with the other guy kneeling on his back but upright, showing off his body, over him whilst using rope to tie him up. Good tonality to print, probably 4″ x 5″ contact? Older guy much bigger than younger guy.

Image No. 523-139. Bob Mizer. 27/09/1951.

Image of bodybuilder in white trunks looking down about too lift weights. Guy crouched down over weights on tiled floor. Huge negative black space around him.

Image No. 523-140. Bob Mizer. 28/10/1951.

Muscular mesomorph. Big legs, arms, chest, smile, everything!! Posing in black trunks with arms in S shape, fists clenched. Big negative black space around him.

Like the idea of using this large expanse of negative space above models in my own work. Some of his nude and posing pouch models have dirty feet. Walking around outside or on dirty studio floors.

Image No. 523-431. Bob Mizer. 28/10/1951.

Two young men with dark hair in posing pouches walking along a train track, one on each rail, holding hands/supporting each other across the tracks. Tanned, built, abs, lats, lovers? Mountains and hills in the background.

 

10. Physique Culture and Early Homosexual Magazines

A. Tomorrow’s Man. Irving Johnson Health, 1952.

B. Body Beautiful. Montreal: Weider Publishing, 1955.

C. Adonis. Montreal: Weider Publishing, 1955.

D. Your Physique. Vol. 1, No. 1. Montreal: Joe Weider, August, 1940.

The first issue is really crude. Headings are hand done and filled in like kids graffiti. Typed content is on A4 pages. Hand drawings also. Only the cover uses magazine paper and it has a photograph printed on it. Cost 15c. The second issue is in a smaller format but is printed all on magazine paper and properly printed. Much more professional. Later editions are back to A4 size.

E. Vim – for Vigorous Living. Vol. 1, No. 1. Chicago: Victory Printing and Publishing Co., May 1954.

Small magazine about 5″ wide x 7″ high.

F. The Greyhuff Review. 1st Edition. Minneapolis, Minn: Directory Services Inc., 1965.

Homosexual magazine. Pictures of lithe, nude young men, articles, cartoons, social comment. “What is Obscenity?” “Discovery: Can a Young Man in a Small Country Town Find Happiness in the Great Big City?” “Is Punishment the Answer? Is There an Effective Way to Eliminate Homosexuality?” “The Public is Watching.”

2nd Edition.
Quotation: “The beginning of wisdom is the realization that there are other points of view than my own. Understanding those points of view is the next step. The final test of wisdom is understanding why those points of view are held.”

G. Der Neue Ring. No.1. Hamburg/Amsterdam: Gerhard Presha, November 1957.

Homosexual magazine.

H. Butch. Issue No. 1. Minneapolis, Minn: DSI Sales, 1965.

Homosexual magazine. Small 5″ wide x 9″ high ‘art’ magazine including nude posing.

I. Der Kries. No.1. Zurich: No Publisher, January, 1952.

Homosexual magazine. Typical photographs of the era in this magazine. No frontal nudity even up to the later 1965 editions. Lithe young men, drawings and articles, including one on the Kinsey Report in the first edition (pp. 6-7).

Some of the photographs in Der Kries of young European men are similar to German naturist movement photographs (Oct, Nov, Dec 1949 – Cat. No. 52423, May, June 1949 – Cat. No. 52452 showing 5 nude boys outdoors throwing medicine ball in the air with their arms upraised).

Also some photographs are similar to von Gloeden’s Italian peasants (July 1952 – Cat. No. 52424, August 1960 – Cat. No. 52425, all 4 photographs in May, Oct 1956 – Cat. No. 52426). The 1949 photographs are possibly taken from earlier German magazines anyway? Discus, javelin, archer and shot putter images. Mainly nudes. George Platt Lynes contributed to the magazine under the pseudonym Roberto Rolf.

 

Baron von Gloeden photographs from the Collection at The Kinsey Institute

Young peasant boys, all with uncut dicks, pose (unpretentiously some of them) for the camera. Innocence lost to the Baron, to the camera? Most models ages range from 11-18 years old. There are a couple o f portraits of older men with moustaches in the collection. Usually his photographs are full length portraits against walls using steps, props (swords, tiger skins, fish, hats, togas, flowers, vases). He doesn’t rely on classical props as much as I thought he would – just the form of the body with perhaps a ribbon in the hair, for example. Some are incredibly beautiful photographs and have a distinct presence. Catalogue No.’s 79 and 80 are two particularly good photographs I think. Relatively long exposures can be seen in the movement of dogs and trees in prints.

Catalogue No. 18. #9744. Nd

One of my favourites is not a full length composition but a seated boy cropped mid thigh, legs and body turned slightly to the right, staring straight into the camera. The body within the frame takes up a much greater space within the image than in the other photographs. The young mans hair is amazing.

Catalogue No. 129. ANG #60. Nd

2 nude young men, 14 years old, in country landscape, grasses, mountains in far distance. Both have uncut dicks, one is lighter skinned, the other darker. Lighter skinned one has an arm around the other boy. Darker skinned boy is holding lighter skinned boys other hand and affectionately looking at him What an intimate photograph!! What was he thinking! The darker skinned lad looking at the other boy. Catalogue No. 165 is a cropped version of the above print.

Catalogue No. 167. Nd

Magnificent. 2 naked young men reclining on a tiger skins in a courtyard surrounded by flowering plants. Both have rough hands and feet. In bottom left of print you can see the shadow of photographer and camera(?) This has been retouched to try and remove this.

The 100 or so von Gloeden’s are stunning, mainly 8″ x 10″ prints – contact prints?

 

Bob Mizer. 'Unknown, Handstand, Santa Monica' 1945

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Unknown, Handstand, Santa Monica
1945
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
10.5 x 8.4 inches
Edition of 5
Printed in 2012

 

Bob Mizer. 'Unknown Woman Lifting, Santa Monica' c. 1951

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Unknown Woman Lifting, Santa Monica
c. 1951
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
10.5 x 8.4 inches
Edition of 5
Printed in 2012

 

Bob Mizer. 'Unknown Woman, Los Angeles' c 1951

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Unknown Woman, Los Angeles
c. 1951
Vintage large-format black and white negatives
Silver gelatin print
10.5 x 8.4 inches
Edition of 5
Printed in 2012

 

Bob Mizer. 'Unknown on Platform, Santa Monica' c. 1945

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992)
Unknown on Platform, Santa Monica
c. 1945
Vintage large-format black and white negative
Silver gelatin print
10.5 x 8.4 inches
Edition of 5
Printed in 2012

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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